This Week in South Sudan – Week 15

Sunday 6 April

Monday 7 April

Tuesday 8 April

Wednesday 9 April

Thursday 10 April

Friday 11 April


This Week in South Sudan – Week 14

Monday 31 March

Tuesday 1 April

 Wednesday 2 April

 Thursday 3 April

 Friday 4 April

Saturday 5 April

Treason Case in South Sudan: Why now?

While peace negotiations between the SPLM/A and the SPLM/A-in-Opposition have entered a third round in Addis Ababa, the government of South Sudan is in the process of putting several of South Sudan’s most prominent politicians on trial. The court case is highly politicised and inextricably linked to the struggle for power in South Sudan.

Shortly after the outbreak of violence 15 December lastyear the South Sudan government detained eleven politicians accused of involvement in a coup attempt. Their detention has been a crucial issue in previous rounds of the peace negotiations (see previous brief). In late January seven detainees were released on bail, but the trial of the other four commenced last week. Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng, Majak D’Agoot and Lol Gatkuoth are all charged under the Penal Code Act of 2008, chapter five, with “treason, incitement of the masses, causing disaffection among police forces or defense forces, defaming the government of South Sudan and undermining authority of or insulting the president.” Conviction on some of these charges carries a maximum penalty of death.

In addition to correspondence and phone recordings, the main evidence against the politicians is statements made at a press conference on 6 December 2013. Witnesses have also given statements, but not without surprises. Army Brigadier General Atem Benjamin summoned by the prosecution ended up supporting the defendants’ claim of innocence, while Minister of Interior Aleu Ayeny Aleu failed to appear in court despite several summons.

Although important in itself, the trial has wide-reaching political implications, not only for the legitimacy of the current rebellion, but also for that of the new South Sudanese state. Implicitly, this is a trial to determine blame for the outbreak of violence in Juba on 15-18 December, which escalated into today’s state of civil war. Given the high stakes and politicised nature of the trial, it is likely that no definite conclusion will be reached on the issue of coup plotting. Both sides now appear to agree that the arrest of the opposition leaders happened at the same time that violence broke out and that resistance to the arrest led to further violence. They diverge over whether the arrests were justified. In consequence, the events of 15-18 December seem not to be part of the charge. Instead, prosecutors contend that the politicians were plotting a coup before 15 December and were arrested pre-emptively. A conviction would legitimise the arrests, shift blame for the ensuing violence onto the opposition, and win back some of the support the government has lost both domestically and internationally. The opposition claims that the arrests were intended to neutralise unruly factions within the SPLM. Moreover, the four accused did not resist arrest: the attempt to apprehend Riek Machar (who escaped) – is what caused more violence.

At the time of the arrests, Salva Kiir had been openly challenged by the internal opposition, who demanded that he step down. On 6 December they announced plans for a demonstration at the John Garang Memorial Site – the place for official rallies in Juba. The government’s decision to hold a long delayed National Liberation Council meeting on 13 -14 December was a hasty response that failed to placate the opposition, who walked out on the first day. The arrests thus took place during a political fight with careers, lives, and ultimately the future of South Sudan at stake.

In sum, it is the timing of the trial that is problematic. Atrocities have been committed in South Sudan and trials might be warranted, but holding them in the midst of a civil war and parallel to peace negotiations will be counter-productive. A more sensible approach has been recommended by David Deng of the South Sudan Law Society, the Enough Project and members of the US Congress: a hybrid court combining South Sudanese and foreign judicial expertise. But delay would create a dilemma for the government: they either have to keep the four detainees under arrest indefinitely or release them on bail and suffer a severe loss of prestige.

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

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.