South Sudan’s conflict has devastated communities and polarised society and, unless the root causes of the conflict are addressed now, the world’s youngest country may find itself once more in crisis, experts said during a recent debate organised by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The government and rebels signed a ceasefire on Jan. 23 to end more than five weeks of fighting that brought the country to the brink of civil war. More than half a million people have been displaced and thousands killed in the conflict between government troops and rebels backing former vice president Riek Machar.

One of the most damaging aspects of the conflict is the impact it has had on the country’s ability to build lasting peace, David Deng, research director of the South Sudan Law Society in Juba, said.

“Friends and former colleagues have become enemies. The situation is very polarised. Those of us in the middle risk becoming the enemy of both sides,” Deng said.

Only a carefully designed and well-resourced process of truth, justice and reconciliation can begin to heal these wounds, he added.