This Week in South Sudan – Week 13

Monday 24 March

  • The South Sudanese government dropped their demand that the former detainees must be excluded from the IGAD peace talks if the talks are to proceed.
  • Clashes between the SPLA and the SPLA-in-Opposition in Nasir County (Upper Nile).

Tuesday 25 March

Wednesday 26 March

Thursday 27 March

Friday 28 March

  • A UN report stated that more than 1 million people have been forced to leave their homes in South Sudan since the outbreak of conflict 15 December 2013.

Saturday 29 March

Fleeing Conflict in South Sudan

As peace talks in Addis Ababa resumed yesterday, five days later than scheduled owing to disagreements over participation, a political compromise still seems to be in the future. Meanwhile, the humanitarian impact of the conflict intensifies day by day. As the rainy season approaches and transportation becomes increasingly difficult, as many as 4.9 million people are believed to be in need of assistance.

Displacement is foremost a result of insecurity in large parts of the country, which not only threatens violence but also affects livelihoods. The UN’s latest estimate suggests that more than 700,000 people are internally displaced while 217,911 are refugees in neighbouring countries. The number of refugees continues to increase: on average Sudan receives 350 refugees a day and Uganda 892, and in total more than 100,000 have fled to Kenya and Ethiopia. Internally, people flee from Unity State to Kordofan, from the Blue Nile to Maban in Upper Nile, and from Malakal farther South (see map).

Recent Reported Incidents of Violence in South Sudan (USAID)

As seen in many previous cases, large influxes of the displaced to areas already under pressure lead to increased local tensions and in many cases to outbreaks of violence with host communities. The latter often regard the displaced and refugees as security risks encroaching on their livelihood. Moreover, in marginalised areas people in camps might have better access to food and social services than the host population. Last week, locals in Nimule protested when refugees on their way to Ugandan camps settled rather than moving on to Uganda. In Maban County (Upper Nile) tension between locals and refugees has caused new outbreaks of violence. In the Yusuf Batil camp, the UNHCR reported four deaths after a clash between the host community and refugees. Residents living near the camp fled their homes in fear of more confrontations with camp residents.

With the coming rains these conflicts may escalate further. In the wet season the UN and NGOs’ ability to provide aid is limited because roads are muddy or blocked by flooding. In addition to an increasing number of IDPs in search of protection, those who already have reached a camp may be forced to move again. Last week, the UN had to transfer people from the flooded Tongping camp in Juba to the camp outside the town at Jebel. The urgency of a peace deal between the warring parties is further emphasised by the IGAD countries’ limited capacity to deal with the influx of refugees. On the Ugandan border, in Adjumani Refugee Camp, refugees’ unauthorised logging has created hostility from the host population.

The western part of South Sudan and the three states of Equatoria have remained relatively tranquil during the current conflict. But in more volatile areas such as Jonglei, a breakdown of government control may also spur violence not necessarily motivated by the political dispute between Kiir and Machar. In Rumbek (Lakes State), 15 people were killed last week as a result of a revenge attack related to incidents of August last year. Attacks like these continue unimpeded when government, the police and conflict-resolution mechanisms are unable to respond. Such disputes demonstrate that in the event of a peace agreement in Addis Ababa, reconciliation processes will have a lasting impact only if they encompass the local level. However, as new layers are added to old disputes and thousands experience the trauma of fleeing their homes, reconciliation becomes a greater challenge every day the civil war continues.

Helene Molteberg Glomnes, Research Assistant, PRIO and Øystein H. Rolandsen, Senior Researcher, PRIO.

This Week in South Sudan – Week 12

Monday 17 March

Tuesday 18 March

Wednesday 19 March

Thursday 20 March

Friday 21 March

Saturday 22 March

Sunday 23 March


This Week in South Sudan – Week 11

Monday 10 March

Tuesday 11 March

  • The treason trial against the politicians accused of being involved in a coup against the South Sudan government (Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng Ajak, Majak D’Agoot, and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth) started.
  • UN expressed fear of the approaching rainy season’s impact on the conditions in the UN camps and on the availability of aid.
  • Brigadier General Ramesh Kumar Pun arrived in South Sudan from Nepal to become the new UNMISS Deputy Force Commander.
  • The UNMISS spokesperson, Ariane Quentier explained to the press that the UN weapons found on Sunday, were intended for Ghanaian peace keeping forces and that an error in labelling of the goods caused the regretful transport by road rather than air.
  • Medicins Sans Frontiers launched a press release stating that 15,000 seek have fled their homes in Upper Nile the past weeks.

 Wednesday 12 March

Thursday 13 March

Friday 14 March

Saturday 15 March

Sunday 16 March



Facilitating Peace in South Sudan

Yesterday, The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) announced that it will employ a joint East African Protection and Deterrent Force (PDF) as a part of the agreement of cessation of hostilities in South Sudan (see previous blog post). According to the announcement, Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda, possibly also Djibouti will contribute troops to the force, which is supposed to be operational by mid-April. This development accentuates two underlying issues related to IGAD’s role a as a peace facilitator in the South Sudan conflict: its capacity and neutrality.

IGAD is an institution consisting of eight member countries and has first and foremost been involved in diplomatic efforts to secure peace in Sudan and Somalia. It has a relatively weak mandate and none of the member countries have shown any interest in developing IGAD into a fully functional multilateral organisation. It continues to be dependent on donations from Western countries, often on an ad hoc basis. In the case of Sudan and South Sudan peace processes financial and technical support is provided by, among others, the “troika countries” (USA, UK and Norway). Now, for the deployment of the new IGAD force, both the AU and the UN Security Council has been asked to provide technical and logistical support, in other words, to bankroll the operation. AU has little or no resources to contribute and it will be the Western countries that will carry the financial burden of this operation. This means that the IGAD’s capacity to host negotiations and maintain a protection force is to a certain extent at the discretion of others. For IGAD as an institution this kind of dependency on external actors might endanger its ability to be a political instrument for its member countries.

Also the IGAD countries’ proximity to South Sudan and involvement in the conflict outside of the negotiation room threatens to compromise its legitimacy as a neutral facilitator. It is noticeable that Uganda has not been mentioned as one of the contributing countries to the PDF. Uganda’s neutrality has been questioned due to the involvement of its troops in the conflict. On the request of the South Sudan government and tacitly approved by IGAD, Ugandan forces were deployed to assist the South Sudanese government in protecting infrastructure and prevent escalation of the conflict. But, there is little doubt that these forces also actively participated on the Government side in campaigns against the SPLM/A in Opposition led by Riek Machar. The latter has even accuses Ugandan troops of using cluster bombs in their attacks on Opposition forces in Jonglei. Whether the latest accusations hold true or not, the military involvement on one side of the conflict has undermined Uganda’s credibility as peace facilitator. Following pressure from the international community, including the UN and IGAD, Uganda has agreed to remove its troops from South Sudan. But only when a replacement force is in place, which assumedly will be the PDF.

It is noticeable that also Sudan, the former enemy and neighbour to the north, is not part of the planned Protection and Deterrent Force. The possibility of Sudan protecting oil assets in South Sudan has been on the agenda in talks between representatives of two countries, but nothing has materialised so far. Sudan competes with Uganda to gain influence in the new nation and also has interests in a certain level of stability to ensure that oil production is not interrupted. But, it appears that Sudan is not regarded as sufficiently neutral to contribute to the PDF.

Sudan is also a member of the Arab League, another international body signalling interest in assisting in solving the conflict: For the first time, South Sudan foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, is invited to an Arab League meeting of foreign ministers. He sees the League as an arena that may contribute to a peaceful solution in South Sudan. The Arab League has not yet invited the opposition and it will probably be difficult to contribute constructively unless they involve more than one party to the conflict.

The IGAD countries have a deep vested interest in avoiding a full implosion in South Sudan. None of the neighbours would like to have an insecure, non-governed territory along their border. Also, more than 171,000 refugees have already fled South Sudan to the neighbouring countries. Finally, South Sudan is economically important to Kenya, Sudan, Ugandan, Ethiopia, Eritrea; even people from Somalia made good money in South Sudan before the conflict started in December last year. The regional dynamics impact the IGAD countries’ role as peace facilitators, but it also make them best positioned to convince the warring parties to end the conflict. Even with its limited capacity, IGAD is the organisation best suited to facilitate the peace process.

Øystein H. Rolandsen, Senior Researcher PRIO and Helene Molteberg Glomnes, Research Assistant, PRIO

This Week in South Sudan – Week 10

Monday 3 March

Tuesday 4 March

Wednesday 5 March

Thursday 6 March

Friday 7 March

Saturday 8 March

 Sunday 9 March

  • Sudan Tribune reported that five East African countries are willing to deploy peace keeping forces to South Sudan.

This Week in South Sudan – Week 9

Monday 24 February

  • The proposal of an interim government excluding Riek Machar and Salva Kiir was rejected by the South Sudan government. They expressed that they will not accept a solution which does not involve Salva Kiir.
  • The South Sudan Army (SPLA) reported that they had killed at least 200 rebels supporting SPLA/M-in-Opposition who had attacked in Gardiang, Jonglei.

 Tuesday 25 February

  • Francis Ayul, the mining and petroleum minister in Upper Nile, was fired by President Salva Kiir.
  • 68,000  were reported to have fled their homes in Duk county (Jonglei State) after clashes 24 Feburary.

Wednesday 26 February

 Thursday 27 February

Friday 28 February

  •  Sudan Tribune reported that the US intends to withdraw its military aid to South Sudan

 Saturday 1 March

  •  Youths in Jonglei attacked the rebel forces, killing 15 and released James Cuei Leek, the Duk chief who has been detained by rebels loyal to the SPLM/A in Opposition.

 Sunday 2 March

  • SPLM/A in Opposition supports the formation of an interim government on the condition that it is without Salva Kiir.

Why negotiations will be stalled for the foreseeable future

Perceptions of peace negotiations tend to shift rapidly from inertia to optimism, to disillusion and back to inertia. Peace talks also tend to be long-winding. True to form, the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) facilitated negotiations between the Government of South Sudan and its opposition led by Riek Machar has been a roller coaster ride – and it has barely begun.  In early January we saw endless discussions over format and agenda, then, on 23 January the parties signed an agreement on cessation of hostilities and agreed on the initiation of a political process to address current challenges (see brief 1 for a more detailed analysis).  If not a genuine breakthrough, the agreements nevertheless indicated a willingness to talk.

The agreements did not provision a release of the politicians detained in Juba, but it appears that some kind of reciprocity was expected after the Opposition agreed to cessation of hostilities. Seven of the eleven detainees were subsequently released “on bail” to Nairobi where the Kenyan government initially denied them permission to leave Kenya. However, international political pressure was brought to bear and Riek Machar responded by announcing that unless the former detainees were allowed to attend, he would boycott the negotiations. Eventually they were allowed to travel to Addis to attend the peace talks to which they became a third party, or “block”, naming themselves SPLM leaders former detainees.

Apparently this third block still agrees with Machar’s criticism of the current state of affairs in South Sudan and has similar demands for political reform, but they do not condone Riek Machar’s armed rebellion. It might very well be that this group of politicians indeed does not regard political violence to be the right means at the moment, but there are also other reasons why they have not joined Machar. Perhaps most important, they do not want to become subordinate to Machar. Their earlier political alliance on display at the press conference 6 December 2013 was tactical and only reflected agreement on the demand for Salva Kiir to step down. Who the members of the third block want as his successor is not clear, but it is certainly not Riek Machar.

Recent developments – notably the attack on Malakal over the weekend – confirm that Riek Machar and his SPLM in Opposition has the capacity to destabilise and harass Government forces in Greater Upper Nile and at the very least to disrupt some of South Sudan’s strategically important oil production.  But, the Opposition seems to lack the military strength and co-ordination needed to control larger towns. Moreover, it appears that African states and other strategic allies, as well as the UN, are willing to invest considerably in avoiding a capture of Juba and a subsequent military seizing of power by the Opposition.   It is too early to conclude that this is a stalemate, but the situation does not suggest that a military resolution of the crisis is imminent. Unfortunately, there are no signs that any kind of durable political compromise is in the offing either.

It is still not clear what kind of political process the IGAD talks in Addis is supposed to initiate. The immediate problem is the leadership crisis within the state bearing party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. But underneath there is a dual challenge that needs to be addressed:

Firstly, the SPLM is a grand coalition of some of the major political forces within South Sudan and a break-up of the party has been expected. Lam Akol already left the movement and established the SPLM Democratic Change prior to the last election in 2010. The faith of SPLM DC illustrates one of the challenges with being an opposition party in South Sudan: lack of resources. Aspiring opposition party leaders have to either be independently wealthy or find a secret (foreign) sponsor to be able to run a political party and an election campaign. Although officially and formally independent from the Government of South Sudan, the SPLM has the whole government apparatus to draw upon in the next election. Under the current arrangement, whoever controls the SPLM will win the Presidential election. Or, put differently, whoever controls the government, also controls the SPLM. Therefore, the cost of forming an opposition party is prohibitively high and the only viable path to power is within the SPLM.

Secondly, there are many disenfranchised elites and intellectuals in South Sudan which are not part of the current process. The locus of power within the SPLM is with the initial nucleus of intellectuals who turned fighters in the mid-1980s. This excludes those that joined the movement at a later stage, notably many in the three Equatoria states to the South, but also refugees who returned after peace in 2005, women (despite the introduction of nominal 25 % women quota) and a rapidly expanding “youth” segment.  In consequence, even in the unlikely event that the SPLM leaders negotiating in Addis should reach a compromise acceptable between themselves they will increasingly be challenged by these excluded elites. The citizens’ initiative calling for direct participation of civil society in the peace talks might be seen as the most articulate and non-partisan group hailing from these “outsiders”.

Summed up, the crisis in South Sudan is destined to last since we still do not know:

  • what kind of process is needed to solve the crisis in South Sudan;
  • what kind of compromises will be possible to reach; and,
  • who among the South Sudanese are going to participate in this process.

Anyone suggesting that this cluster of problems will be solved in the near future is betting against high odds.

Øystein H. Rolandsen, Senior Researcher PRIO and Helene Molteberg Glomnes, Research Assistant, PRIO

This Week in South Sudan – Week 8

Monday 17 February

 Tuesday 18 February

Wednesday 19 February

Thursday 20 February

Friday 21 February

Sunday 23 February