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Broader Agreements Needed in South Sudan


December 15th, 2018 marked the fifth anniversary of South Sudan’s civil war. To ensure that the latest peace agreement meets a better fate than the previous failed attempts, a broader political settlement that shares power across the country’s diverse political and social groups and regions is needed.

In the News:

Since Decemeber of 2013, South Sudan has been at war, “expanding into different corners of the country, as more groups succumbed to the desperate power struggle. A recent study estimates the death toll to be as high as 400,000. This Christmas will be more hopeful than the last, however. In September, the warring parties agreed to a new peace deal expected to see rebel leader Machar return to Juba as one of five vice presidents ahead of general elections scheduled for 2022. But after other similar attempts to secure peace or ensure a ceasefire collapsed over the past five years, questions remain as to whether this agreement is any different and if it will succeed.”

“Under the terms of the new agreement, Machar and other opposition leaders are to return to Juba and form a “transitional” government pending elections. South Sudan’s government would expand to include five vice presidents, with Machar as the first. Kiir retains two vice presidents, while other opposition groups fill the other two slots. This was designed to make the 2018 deal more inclusive than a similar agreement signed in 2015, which did not include other opposition groups. However, if anything, the extra seats have only further fragmented the opposition, which is weak with infighting and factiousness. None of the other opposition groups that signed the accord are relevant militarily. While the accord adds some new elements – it speeds up timelines for forming a unified army and includes provisions to determine South Sudan’s internal borders (heavily gerrymandered during the war) – the basic 2015 model remains the same: an end to fighting followed by a power-sharing government, then elections. Much of the new agreement is copy and pasted from the last.”

Insight from Peace Science:

Lessons Learned From Unsuccessful Conflict Intervention Strategies in South Sudan:

  • An approach to peacebuilding that focuses solely on elections, democracy, and power-sharing is not adequate and needs to be supplemented by reconciliation and relationship-building processes to facilitate a more sustainable peace.
  • Conflict intervention strategies informed by realist and liberal assumptions are not universally applicable; instead, conflict intervention strategies should be conceived on a case-by-case basis and should incorporate social-psychological perspectives.
  • “Positive sanctions,” offering complying parties actual or promised rewards, are most useful in the early stages of conflict and in inter-state conflicts. However, even if applied at a later stage, they can facilitate the removal of problematic actors and the transition to a stable government.


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