Today, 9 July, marks the seventh anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, more than four years of which have been marred by conflict. Disagreement between President Salva Kiir Mayardit (of the Dinka ethnic group) and his rival, former vice president Riek Machar (who is Nuer), led to the outbreak of the conflict in 2013.
Clashes quickly took an ethnic dimension, which has since become one of the main factors fuelling tensions. Other factors include poverty, famine, competition over resources and the proliferation of small arms. Defusing tribal conflict is a crucial starting point to achieving a ceasefire which can restore peace in South Sudan.
Refugees from South Sudan, both women and men, can contribute positively to the ongoing search for peace mainly due to their experiences in exile, living alongside different ethnic groups. Their experiences often make them accommodating of people’s differences, and they can help change attitudes and encourage their compatriots to interact even with perceived enemies.