by Julius Gale JUBA
South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The year 2018
has witnessed significant turnarounds for South Sudan, as the
world’s youngest nation tries to rise from a five-year civil war
with a fresh peace deal that brought erstwhile rivals back to
Juba, the capital, for joint celebrations.
marks the fifth year since South Sudan plunged into a conflict
that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over 4
The year 2018 will go down in history books as a period when
South Sudan leaders stepped back from using violence to address
political differences and turned to dialogue once more as a
means to seeking common good for the nation.
Following the collapse of a 2015 peace agreement in July
2016, the warring factions inked a power-sharing deal in
neighboring Sudan in September, and the latest deal appears be
to holding despite sporadic fighting in the past three months.
"2018 is unique because we had peace, and before that the
routine challenges were many," said Susan Wasuk, head of a
women’s group in Juba.
"After the signing of the peace, although there are those who
are still practicing the harmful acts of violating people’s
rights, there is a bit of change," she said.
At the end of October, a huge gathering was staged in Juba,
where regional leaders joined South Sudanese President Salva
Kiir, rebel leader Riek Machar and thousands of fellow South
Sudanese to celebrate the latest peace deal.
"I want to reiterate that the war in South Sudan has come to
an end and we have forgiven each other and we have decided to
move forward," Kiir told the cheering crowd.
The return of Machar, who was Kiir’s deputy before the two
fell out, was seen as a major milestone in the country’s
protracted peace efforts.
Machar fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
in 2016 following the outbreak of fresh violence in Juba.
"I came only to confirm to people that I am for peace.
"The past is gone.
"We have opened a new chapter for peace and unity," said
James Okuk, senior research fellow at the Center for
Strategic Policy Studies, a Juba-based think tank, said the
signing of the peace agreement and subsequent celebrations
marked key achievements for South Sudan in 2018.
But Okuk warned that more difficult times awaits as the
parties to the pact enter the implementation phase of the
"So far nothing has come out from the parties and we have not
seen something concrete," Okuk said. "The peace is still in the
"So we have to wait."
According to the World Bank, South Sudan is the most
oil-dependent nation in the world, with oil accounting for
almost the totality of exports, and around 60 percent of its
gross domestic product (GDP).
But after the young nation descended into civil war in late
2013, oil production fell from 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) in
2011 to less than 130,000 bpd in 2014 amid soaring inflation.
Since the signing of the new peace agreement, fighting has
drastically reduced and some oilfields in the northern parts of
the country are reopening.
The cash-strapped government is betting on increased oil
revenue to resuscitate South Sudan’s ailing economy, and the
South Sudanese citizens who have born the devastating effects
of the conflict and economic woes for half a decade hope the
relative peace will turn things around and help improve the dire
"By the end of this year, I believe people will be positive
and look at 2019 as a year of change," said a civil rights
activist who identified herself by the first name, Sarah.