OPINION — South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar on Thursday pulled back from the brink and agreed to delay the formation of a government of national unity by 100 days. A crucial element of the peace process, this extension buys time to resolve critical components of the agreement, such as decisions on state borders and the reunification of security forces. However, without a new approach and reinvigorated international diplomatic effort to break the political stalemate, parties to South Sudan’s revitalized peace risk finding themselves in the same place early next year.
The consequences could be dire for the people of the east-central African nation: Two-thirds of the population (7.2 million people) are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. While ultimate responsibility rests with the South Sudanese, the U.S. government must play a concerted role in assisting their leaders to establish the necessary conditions for a sustainable peace. Congress can help by swiftly approving a bipartisan resolution reaffirming U.S. support for South Sudan, which was introduced in the Senate by Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois along with Republicans Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Todd Young of Indiana. Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Cory Gardner have since signed on as co-sponsors.