Since fighting erupted in Juba in July 2016 and a major rebel faction returned to war, rebel groups have proliferated though conflict is much reduced from its height in 2014. The government’s current strategy can secure Juba but cannot deliver sustainable nationwide peace. Of the millions experiencing hunger due to the conflict’s impact on civilians, the UN declared 100,000 in famine conditions for several months in 2017. Through field-based research and engagement with relevant national, regional and international actors, Crisis Group aims to support humanitarian access and build a new consensus around sustainable peace efforts that address the regionalised nature of the conflict as well as its localised dynamics.
This week on The Horn, Freedom House Africa Director Jon Temin joins Alan to reflect on the critical U.S. role in South Sudan’s 2011 independence, why the country’s 2015 peace deal collapsed and how the incoming Biden administration can draw on lessons learned.
Originally published in Business Day
Govt and former rebel opposition groups agreed to end stalemate over formation of state and county govts in all but one state; meanwhile intercommunal violence continued. Govt and former rebel opposition groups 9 Dec agreed to move forward with formation of state and county govts, except in contested Upper Nile state, as well as with reconstitution of national legislature; parties agreed to organise peace and reconciliation conference to bring together Upper Nile communities prior to appointment of state governor, over which President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar have been at odds since June; Machar mid-Dec, however, indefinitely postponed conference. Kiir 30 Dec appointed six out of ten deputy state governors. In bid to reassert control over Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), Machar 1-5 Dec organised national party conference; dissent has been mounting in SPLA-IO’s ranks over slow implementation of Sept 2018 peace agreement. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development 20 Dec formally confirmed there are no travel restrictions on Machar. Govt and holdout rebel group National Salvation Front early Dec held talks in Italy’s capital Rome but failed to reach breakthrough on draft ten-point Declaration of Principles aimed at guiding future political negotiations. In Central Equatoria state in south, Kiir’s forces and SPLA-IO clashed several times throughout month in Kajo-Keji county. In Western Equatoria state in south, unidentified gunmen 16 Dec reportedly attacked SPLA-IO in Mvolo county. In Upper Nile state in east, unidentified gunmen mid-Dec reportedly attacked SPLA-IO in Maban county. Meanwhile, intercommunal violence persisted across country. In Central Equatoria state, cattle-related violence killed at least 43 throughout month in Terekeka and Lainya counties. In Lakes state in centre, cattle raids and intercommunal violence throughout month killed at least 29 in Yirol east, Cueibet and Awerial counties. In Warrap state, also in centre, intercommunal clashes mid-Dec left seven dead in Tonj North county.
South Sudan’s conflict parties are supposed to form a unity government by 12 November. But key disputes between them remain unresolved. External actors should push the adversaries to make progress on these matters before entering any power-sharing arrangement – lest war erupt once more.
The truce in South Sudan is holding but could break down at any time. To stave off renewed civil war, external actors should urge the belligerents to strike new bargains on security and internal boundaries – and accept a third-party protection force for the capital.
In 2018, the African Union (AU) and its new Assembly Chairperson President Paul Kagame of Rwanda have the chance to push ahead with much-needed institutional reforms. But the AU must not lose focus on dire conflicts and defusing potential electoral violence.
Vigilante groups have been successful in providing local security. But subcontracting security functions to vigilante groups for counter-insurgency purposes is a dangerous option for fragile African states. African leaders should set clear objectives and mandates when enlisting vigilantes and invest in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs.
China, traditionally averse to intervening abroad, is testing the role of peacebuilder in South Sudan, where it has unique leverage. This could portend a growing global security role, but further Chinese engagement will likely be tempered by self-interest, capacity constraints and aversion to risk.
War in South Sudan led the UN to declare 100,000 people are suffering famine, with a further 5.5 million at risk. This special briefing urges the country to work harder to establish parameters for a ceasefire. At the same time, humanitarian corridors from Sudan should be kept open and donors must fully fund the UN aid appeal.
Disarmament in South Sudan resembles an abusive counterinsurgency operation, not an orderly collection of arms, which the local militias often resist giving up.
The disagreement between Kiir and Machar has endangered the gains made toward a lasting peace.
"[South Sudan president Kiir and former rebel leader Machar] still have much to work through, but Machar was unlikely to extract more significant concessions before forming the government.
[In South Sudan] the dispute over the configuration of states became a major impasse blocking the peace process from moving towards a unity government.
The U.S. has gone from South Sudan’s chief backer to its main naysayer.
The intensity of the violence shows just how great South Sudan’s challenges remain even in a best-case scenario of the national peace process solidifying.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell joins five Crisis Group analysts to analyse the pandemic's political and economic implications.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Crisis Group's Africa Program Director, Comfort Ero, interviews Host Alan Boswell who is Crisis Group's senior analyst on South Sudan about peace prospects in South Sudan.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this episode, Alan Boswell is joined by Cameron Hudson, Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council, to discuss everything from U.S. sanctions on Sudan to the challenges for Prime Minister Hamdok.
Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for South Sudan Alan Boswell recounts what he found during his recent field trip to South Sudan.
A negotiated 100-day extension for naming a unity government has averted a crisis imperilling a ceasefire between South Sudan’s main belligerents. Regional leaders should use the time to pressure them to agree on how to divide the country into states, an essential step for peace.