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.
With South Sudan’s peace process still far from secure, failure to renew a UN arms embargo set to expire this weekend could tip the country back into conflict. South Africa, sitting at the UN Security Council, should support its extension.
Originally published in Business Day
Govt and holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) agreed to three-month ceasefire while govt and former rebel groups made slow progress in local power-sharing negotiations. Negotiations between govt and coalition of non-signatory rebel groups, South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), 9-12 Oct resumed in Italy’s capital, Rome; amid internal frictions, SSOMA split into two camps prompting govt to hold separate talks with NAS, during which they agreed on seven of ten principles of draft Declaration of Principles aimed at guiding future political negotiations; NAS 18 Oct said it had agreed to three-month ceasefire and that it would only commit to open-ended cessation of hostilities once parties agreed on all ten principles. Meanwhile, govt and signatory opposition groups 20 Oct broke deadlock over allocation of county commissioner positions and President Kiir next day asked former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar and other parties to submit nominees for ministerial and county commissioner positions; disagreement persisted over appointment of Upper Nile state governor. In Unity state in north, Paul Malong’s SSOMA faction South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) early Oct defected to Kiir’s forces and 20 Oct launched attack on Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), killing at least one near state capital Bentiu. In Central Equatoria state in south, former SPLA-IO senior commander who in Sept defected to Kiir’s forces 4 Oct launched attack on SPLA-IO base in Kajo-Keji county, reportedly leaving at least two dead. Unidentified gunmen early Oct killed son of former Central Equatoria governor between Juba and Terekeka counties, reportedly prompting reprisal that 9 Oct killed at least six. In Eastern Equatoria state, cattle raids 3-12 Oct left four dead in Torit and Budi counties. Clashes between South Sudanese and Ugandan soldiers along border 27 Oct reportedly left two dead on each side. In centre, intercommunal clashes 7 Oct killed at least ten in Tonj county, Warrap state. Raiders 17-18 Oct killed five cattle traders in Cueibet county, Lakes state. Unidentified gunmen 5 Oct attacked World Food Programme boat-convoy carrying food assistance from Jonglei state to Upper Nile state (east), one crew member missing.
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.