South Sudan

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.

CrisisWatch South Sudan

Unchanged Situation

Kenya-led peace talks between holdout opposition groups and govt advanced to draft agreement but faced pushback from VP Machar, economy worsened further, and new armed group emerged. 

Kenya-led peace talks yielded draft agreement opposed by VP Machar. Following talks between govt and several opposition groups that did not sign 2018 peace accord, Kenyan mediation team mid-June shared draft peace deal with parties. In addition to security, financial and judicial reforms, agreement includes provisions on unimplemented elements of 2018 peace deal, such as drafting of permanent constitution; parties worked on power-sharing section of draft, which could determine timetable for new transitional period (potentially leading to postponing of elections), as well as on revised structure of executive, legislature and judiciary. VP Machar 19 June said agreement undermined 2018 peace deal; his resistance could encourage others within coalition govt in Juba feeling disadvantaged by power-sharing formula to oppose agreement. 

Economic crisis worsened as govt sought outside financing. Economy remained in dire straits, exacerbated by breakdown of key oil pipeline in Feb due to conflict in Sudan. South Sudan Opposition Alliance MP David De Dau 19 June pressed President Kiir to urgently address crisis, warning that public employees had not been paid for months and that “hunger is looming”. Efforts to secure loans from international partners, including International Monetary Fund and Ethiopia, remained challenging due to stringent conditions attached to loans and Juba’s compromised financial credibility, alongside pipeline rupture.

Holdout opposition group splintered, leading to formation of new armed group. National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Thomas Cirillo (holdout opposition group not party to Kenya talks) splintered as top commander, Maj Gen. Kohn Kenyi Loburon, 20 June criticised Cirillo’s “poor leadership” and announced he had formed new rebel group dubbed National Salvation United Forces; defection of Loburon, who has proven adept at defending NAS territory from govt advances, represents major blow to Cirillo. 

Intercommunal violence persisted in several states. Notably, UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) 24 June announced stepped-up patrols in Unity State and Ruweng Administrative Area (RAA) following deadly cross-border clashes over stolen cattle.

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In The News

3 feb 2023
The situation is horrendous in South Sudan, and it seems to keep getting worse despite the peace deal. Washington Post

Alan Boswell

Project Director, Horn of Africa

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Alan Boswell

Project Director, Horn of Africa
Alan Boswell
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Daniel Akech

Senior Analyst, South Sudan
Daniel Akech

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