The Current South Sudan Crisis


The Current South Sudan Crisis

The Horn of Africa is one of the most unstable regions in the continent. It has been the scene of bloody inter and intra state wars which has resulted in the turmoil in Somalia as well as the most recent conflict in South Sudan.

After nearly two decades of devastating civil wars, 2011 marked the secession of South Sudan from the Republic of Sudan. The birth of the world’s youngest nation brought about hope and fresh opportunities in the hearts of the South Sudanese. Nevertheless, political instability within the ruling party, state-obliterating corruption acts in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and ongoing disagreements over the sharing of oil revenues rendered South Sudan to a renewed conflict. This as a result questions the country’s destiny in obtaining a peaceful future through the act of secession (International Crisis Group; 2015 Sudan and South Sudan’s Merging Conflicts; Africa Report; No. 223).

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) were formed in 1983. In the beginning, the SPLM defined itself as a national movement with the objective of establishing a secular and united Sudan. By the time the 1989 “National Salvation Revolution” took over power in Khartoum, the SPLA controlled the largest part of Southern Sudan. Hence to reinforce in 1990, the SPLM joined the opposition umbrella National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This as a result led to the 1991loss of the SPLA militia. After the death of leader Dr. Garang of the SPLM/A, the idea of a united Sudan withered away leading to the 2011 secession and the coming of Salva Kiir Mayardit as military chief (The Sudanese press after separation – Contested identities of journalism, MICT 2012, Page 34).

On December 15, 2013, prior to a power struggle between groups loyal to President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, and those associated with his former Vice President, Riek Machar, of the Nuer ethnic group, conflict arose in the capital of Juba spreading across the Greater Upper Nile region, including Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile states. Later on translating in the division of South Sudan National Army SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) and adding upon tension to the war. This fact does not appear to be surprising as it is argued that the national army is a formation of different opposition groups devoted to their leaders rather than to the army’s command. Nevertheless, an unexpected turns of event plunged the country into chaos dismantling communities and causing the death of numerous civilians.

On January 2014, Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) lead peace talks mounted to a cease-fire agreement between the two states nevertheless tensions still continued, resulting to another agreement in May, June, and August the same year. However, all the six cease-fire accords have never been realized. The continuous unrest rendered tens of thousands of lives at stake and caused to be the displacement of nearly two million people of which, following the assessment of the UNHCR, 194,847 individuals are sheltered in Ethiopia.

This attributed to humanitarian calamity within the country (especially around the oil-rich region of Bentiu) among which mass atrocities between ethnic lines, sexual violence, famine and the recruitment of child soldiers aggravated the condition. In this regard the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) portrayed that approximately 9,000 children had been recruited into armed forces in the hostile war. As a result the once known for oil-rich state of South Sudan, is now been placed on the top of the Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index. All the same both the warring sides still persist in advancing their armed forces.

Various proceedings have been made in attempt to address the complicated matter in South Sudan. Yet, many have tended to fail to yield an agreement. Among these efforts negotiations led by the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is the leading one that has resulted with agreements to de-escalate the war. Mainly because of the fragmentation of armed group’s independence from both sides which renders more intensity and complicity to the war however lead IGAD’s regional security organization to solemnly focus on President Kiirs and former Vice President Machar.  

Factor that is further exasperating the war is Uganda’s intervention (siding with President Salva Kiir) also stalled IGAD’s diplomacy in the region. A reason behind this is the infrastructural investments that Uganda is making in South Sudan, but the major one is Uganda’s mutual interest in oil returns.

The war however has also created impact on Sudan. As indicated in U.S. Energy Information Administration after secession almost 75% of oil fields to be placed in South Sudan. This has influentially threatened the Republic of Sudan. However, after oil revenue agreement, through the control over the pipelines, Sudan was able to generate income transporting South Sudanese oil to global markets along the Port Sudan. The escalation of the war however has risked Khartoum with economic crisis as well.

Neighbouring states have clearly imposed threats to inflict disciplinary measures, in which property freezing and travel bans on individuals whom hinder the peace process are included. However, deadlines have passed without action.

This begs a question as to what the African Union is doing in assisting the IGAD effort and force the warring parties to abide by the rules of the agreement. Various summits involving Heads of the region’s state have been conducted to discuss the situation in South Sudan, but these extraordinary meetings have done little to stop the fighting. Adequate enforcements of sanctions on individuals and enactments of threats of prosecution are essential to culminate the civil war. Even if the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has pressed towards penalizing acts against those diming the reconciliation process, the complete ratification lies in the final decision of IGAD in order to avoid complications in the on-going negotiations.

So far it would be fair to argue that the African Union has done little to address the eroding issue of South Sudan. Where almost all of the powers of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) have failed in performance, especially in that of anticipating and preventing disputes leading to crimes against humanity (of which genocide), and undertaking peace-making missions. Not to mention the overall objective of the AU in encouraging the implementation of conventions on arms control and in the aim of facilitating supply of humanitarian relief systems.

Complications are undoubtedly related to the lack of will on both parties in finding common ground. However the African Unions tedious response has further slowed the peace process.

Nevertheless IGAD is working hard to manoeuvre the situation. Notwithstanding on previous negotiations failure there are still high hopes upon concluding the war. The Communiqué of the 484th meeting regarding Peace and Security Council in South Sudan held on 29 January 2015, proposed strong recommendations to warring sides in identifying common grounds. Where necessity to establish a Transitional Government of National Unity prior to the 24th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly of the Heads of State and Government were pointed out, and warning against parties who obstacle the political process. And finally initiated the AU High-Level ad hoc Committee for South Sudan, established by Council at its 474th meeting held on 5 December 2014, and encourages the Committee to take all necessary steps in order to enhance the IGAD-led mediation.

As a result the Communiqué leads to a signed agreement, on the 2nd of February, to establish a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in South Sudan. Nevertheless the final governmental formation will be decided after final peace talks on the 20th of February.   

Although there have been little room for consensus regarding the division of executive power, the question over retaining separate armies; and the issue of federalism as a governmental system of the country. And of course the international community have not yet decided on the relative sanctions to be imposed (International Crisis Group; 2015 Sudan and South Sudan’s Merging Conflicts; Africa Report; No. 223).

However, actions IGAD cannot be sufficient in bringing about the change aimed for. Strong collaboration among IGAD and the AU are optimal in stopping the war. The African Union should aim at working closely by strengthening the success of the IGAD process hence by giving support to IGAD’s peace process; by making sure that AU member states give their full support for the IGAD peace process; and ensure the full implementation of the final decisions of the IGAD.

Nevertheless, the path to a lasting peace will require addressing not just the challenges presented by the current conflict, but those that existed long-before independence. These include: corruption; political party reform; inter and intra communal violence. In addition to this disputes over who is going to control the South Sudan National Army SPLA remains to be a critical question as well.


Name: Samrawit

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