- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2018

South Sudan’s warring leaders on Wednesday said they had reached another power-sharing deal to end five years of brutal civil war, even as international aid groups have been warning the country has been guilty of using humanitarian aid and support as political weapons in the war.

South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, announced the agreement between President Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader and longtime rival Riek Machar to reporters in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, The Associated Press reported.

The latest effort at a peace deal will be signed on Aug. 5, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed told reporters in Khartoum. There was no immediate comment from Mr. Machar’s supporters.

The humanitarian crisis in Africa’s youngest country, plagued by a vicious power struggle since obtaining independence from Sudan in 2011, has hit an all-time high. The United States, along with other governments and human rights organizations, has offered aid in an effort to combat corruption and broker a power-sharing peace deal.

“We have numerous human rights reports that document this [conflict] in grotesque and horrifying detail. This is virtually genocide. It’s ethnic cleansing. It’s clearing out populations,” said Kate Almquist Knopf, a director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, said last week.

Mr. Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and Mr. Machar, an ethnic Nuer, have been clashing over territory, power and energy virtually since the country was formed. A full-fledged civil war broke out in 2013 when Mr. Kiir fired Mr. Machar, then the country’s vice president, leading to tens of thousands of deaths.

Wednesday’s tentative power-sharing deal came just days after the Trump administration and other international observers expressed skepticism that the two sides could reach a lasting cease-fire. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders warned Sunday that a “narrow agreement” between the warring parties “will not solve the problems plaguing South Sudan.”

“In fact, such an agreement may sow the seeds of another cycle of conflict,” she added. The Trump administration warned the U.S. won’t fund South Sudan’s government or act as guarantor unless the peace process includes civil society, churches, women and other excluded groups.

Aid experts say international efforts to ease the crisis have in some cases only fueled the clash over power and resources inside South Sudan.

“They have a dangerous culture of dependency,” said former U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Mary Phee during a forum organized last week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The leaders of this country just look at American leadership and say, ‘Well, you’ve always provided us aid, and you have to continue to provide us aid.’”

The challenges were on dramatic display Monday, when angry South Sudanese protesters reportedly looted 10 humanitarian aid agency compounds and injured two staffers in the process.

The French medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, announced Tuesday it was suspending most of its activities in Maban, South Sudan, after an attack Monday, including a hospital in a refugee camp and primary health care services in a local hospital.

“As the safety of health care personnel and facilities cannot be guaranteed, we have no other choice but to suspend the rest of our activities, which will leave 88,000 people with limited access to much needed medical services,” said Samuel Theodore, the group’s head of mission in South Sudan, in a statement Tuesday.

The instability and political divisions have created a tremendous refugee crisis, with almost 4 million South Sudanese driven from their homes — about a third of the population. About half of the displaced have fled the country entirely, settling in neighboring countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan.

— This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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