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.
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.
If President Kiir follows through on pledge to form transitional govt at end of pre-transitional period 12 Nov despite objections by main rebel leader Riek Machar peace agreement could collapse and violence resume. Kiir and Machar met in capital Juba 20 Oct but failed to resolve outstanding issue of security arrangements. High-level UN Security Council delegation 20 Oct urged Kiir and Machar to speed up implementation of agreement and meet 12 Nov deadline to form govt. Kiir said govt would be formed by deadline, but Machar said he would not join govt in current conditions and demanded second extension of pre-transitional period citing failure to implement peace agreement, in particular reunification of security forces. Machar said that if parties form govt mid-Nov, “the ceasefire that we have been enjoying will be in jeopardy”. UN Security Council delegation later that day said there should be no further extension of pre-transitional period. Machar 21 Oct returned to Sudanese capital Khartoum; 30 Oct called for six-month extension of pre-transitional period. Unidentified assailants 13 Oct killed police officer in Jonglei state. Machar’s rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) 14 Oct reportedly killed trader in Southern Liech state. Unidentified gunmen 22 Oct ambushed police convoy in Southern Liech state, at least two assailants killed. In south west, clashes between govt forces and non-signatory rebel group National Salvation Front in Isebi, Yei River state left at least three aid workers and unknown number of soldiers and rebels dead. Panaguong clan attacked Panawur clan in Abieicok, Gok state 28 Oct leaving at least two dead. Kiir 14-21 Oct facilitated peace talks in Juba between Sudanese govt and Sudanese armed opposition groups; parties agreed to resume talks in Juba 21 Nov. UN Security Council 15 Oct extended mandate of UN peacekeeping mission in disputed Abyei region (UNISFA) on Sudan-South Sudan border until 15 Nov.
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.
The South Sudan peace process is at serious risk of derailing following the UNSC visit to Juba. The strategy to simply pressure on Nov 12 deadline has already failed. It’s time to pivot.
Until Salva Kiir and Riek Machar strike more deals on a path forward, the peace deal will keep spinning its wheels. In six months, South Sudan may be stuck in the same spot.
More clearly than ever, it is now up to Kiir and Machar if they want to move the peace deal [for South Sudan] forward.
The [South Sudan] peace agreement is stalling and is at risk of collapse if more political deals aren’t struck.
In South Sudan, manpower is political power. Politicians use peace deals to grow their own armed ranks.
This is a critical moment for IGAD and the peace process. The response to these early violations will set the tone for the rest of the peace implementation.
Amid growing regional unrest, a fragile peace deal brokered between the warring parties in South Sudan has not won a broader political settlement. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group advises the EU to take a lead in negotiations and put conditions on its monitoring of the agreement.
15 December 2018 marks the fifth anniversary of South Sudan's civil war. To ensure that September’s peace agreement does not meet the fate of previous failed attempts at peace, a broader political settlement that shares power across the country’s groups and regions is needed.
Talks between President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar in the Sudanese capital Khartoum offer the only, albeit slim, hope of a breakthrough in South Sudan’s brutal civil war. African leaders should offer cautious support during the Nouakchott AU summit.
Five years into South Sudan’s civil war more than half of the population is either displace or starving. In this interview, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for the Horn of Africa Casie Copeland talks about the enormous humanitarian toll of the crisis.
A UN mission has largely succeeded in keeping the peace in Abyei, an oil-rich area claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. But there has been less progress made on the mission's work in aiding political mechanisms to determine the final status of Abyei and demilitarise and demarcate the border. As the UN Security Council debates the mission's scope, these mechanisms deserve ongoing support.