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After nearly 5 years of civil war, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar are negotiating a deal that will allow the rebel leader to return to government as the most senior of five vice presidents, putting an end to a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions. Elsewhere, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen announced that after two years, peace talks between Saudi-backed militia and Houthi rebels will be once again take place in September. The United States continues to pursue the denuclearization of North Korea and seeks to restart talks with the Taliban. Eritrea and Ethiopia are also working towards peace, and opening their borders for economic cooperation. There are many other similar conversations about peace occurring around the world – between and within states or with non-state and rebel groups – and all are cause for hope. But our expectations must also be levied because while peace is on the table, the transition is a true challenge and the roads to reconciliation are far and long.

Those working on post-conflict transitions face deep political, ethnic and social challenges, in addition to the economic drain that accompanies war. In the past, agreements have been signed and breached where the transition from war to peace has only preserved the structures that conflict and segregation were built upon, rather than dismantling them. This is no easy task but done carelessly, veneers of peace only sow more seeds of discontent – we have witnessed how political vacuums have only brought about more conflict and war.

Peace comes at a price to those who benefit from the chaos in such countries – and more often than not, these people hold a significant amount of power that can be used to impede implementation; as Machar said in an address, “the devil lies always in the implementation.” A period of uncertainty surely follows these talks but this slow and delicate process must be done. Support and pressure from countries neighboring conflict will be very important in continuing the process. Victims and those who suffered most due to conflict must be given special attention. It is a personal. Getting parties to the table is a challenge, asking them to communicate their grievances in a room where tensions are high is difficult; and when the deal is done, more people must be brought to the table. For peace that is generational, the process is painstaking, but without alternatives.

Further Reading:

South Sudan’s rival leaders sign power-sharing agreement

Why some experts are cautiously optimistic about peace talks with the Taliban

UN envoy confirms first Yemen peace talks in two years

Colombia’s troubled peace process and the lessons of Bosnia-Herzegovina


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