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 rival parties have temporarily salvaged prospects for peace, agreeing a six-month deadline extension to allow for the formation of a unity government. But the country’s external partners must sustain pressure on both sides to preserve a ceasefire and maintain consensus on a path forward.
Implementation of Sept 2018 peace agreement continued to stall ahead of deadline to form unity govt, extended in May for six months to Nov. In anticipation of unification of all signatory forces into national army, main rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) late May and early June claimed it had started sending troops to cantonment without official funding or commencement of cantonment. Independent Boundaries Commission, body tasked with proposing number of states into which country should be divided, 20 June handed its report to regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but could not recommend specific number of states as it had failed to reach required supermajority on any proposal. President Kiir 12 June replaced petroleum minister. Govt 19 June sent envoy to Sudan to mediate between ruling military council and civilian opposition.
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.
President Salva Kiir has played a weak hand well since his main rival was forced out of Juba in July. To avoid new flare-ups in South Sudan’s three-year-old civil war, Kiir and regional states should step up their work on a more inclusive transitional government and peace deals with local rebel groups.
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.
Washington was never willing to take a hard line with Uganda on South Sudan. This was the biggest missed opportunity to halt the war early.
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.