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.
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.
Parties to Sept 2018 peace deal agreed to extend pre-transitional period by 100 days pushing back deadline for formation of unity govt to Feb 2020; and intercommunal violence left over 50 dead. Days before 12 Nov deadline to form unity govt, guarantors of peace agreement Ugandan President Museveni and Sudanese Sovereign Council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 7 Nov convened President Kiir and main rebel leader Riek Machar in Entebbe, Uganda where they agreed to 100-day extension in order to resolve outstanding issues, and to review progress after 50 days. U.S. mid-Nov said it would re-evaluate its relationship with South Sudan and questioned suitability of Kiir and Machar to lead country; 25 Nov recalled its ambassador to South Sudan. Sudanese delegation led by deputy head of Sudanese Sovereign Council General “Hemedti” 25 Nov arrived in capital Juba to hasten implementation of peace agreement. Attacks by unidentified gunmen in Bieh, Jonglei, Tonj and Tambura states 5-24 Nov left at least nine dead and ten missing. In Abyei region, disputed between South Sudan and Sudan, gunmen suspected to belong to Misseriya ethnic group 7 Nov launched attacks on two Dinka villages that left at least nine dead. In centre, killing of Manuer trader triggered clashes 27 and 29 Nov between Manuer and Gak communities leaving at least 53 dead in Western Lakes state. Fighting between security forces and civilians 29 Nov left twelve security force members and two civilians dead in Tonj state. UN Security Council 14 Nov extended mandate of peacekeeping force in Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 May 2020. Sudanese authorities mid-Nov released over a dozen South Sudanese officials and civilians they had arrested along border in Upper Nile state late Oct-early Nov. Third round of talks in capital Juba between Sudanese govt and Sudanese armed opposition groups postponed from 21 Nov to 10 Dec.
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.
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.
In 2019, the African Union faces many challenges, with conflicts old and new simmering across the continent. To help resolve these crises – our annual survey lists seven particularly pressing ones – the regional organisation should also push ahead with institutional reforms.
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.