South Sudan: From war-torn to Regional Peacemaker

As South Sudanese celebrated the tenth anniversary of independence on 9 July, their ambitions to build a nation that they fought for and that many have scarified their lives for, have not yet been realized. Many challenges still undermine the nation building programmes and the people’s aspirations.
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Photo: UNMISS
Photo: UNMISS

One year after its first independence anniversary, South Sudan witnessed an armed conflict and confrontations with the neighboring Sudan over border and territorial claims in 2012.  The war with Sudan led to the closure of borders between the two countries bearing in mind that South Sudan was still in its infancy and lacking institutional capacity and infrastructure that could champion nation-building and nationalism. The closure of the borders was personally ordered by former president Omer Bashir who was dreaming that the referendum on self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan would confirm unity instead of separation. Upon declaration of independence, the government in Khartoum over re-acted and suspended the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) especially those previsions related to the Abyei protocol, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, and those of post-independence issues including border demarcations and currency, which were scheduled to be resolved peacefully in case the results of the referendum opted for separation. Attempts made by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHLIP) for Sudan and South Sudan under Thabo Mbeki the former president of South Africa to resolve these differences failed.

In December 2013 South Sudan was dragged into a civil war generated by power struggles within the ruling party the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Many innocent civilians lost their lives as a result. In 2015 the warring parties signed an Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) but it broke down in July 2016.

South Sudan seized the opportunity and mediated peace negotiations as a way of contributing to the African Union agenda of silencing the guns on the continent by 2020 and creating harmony in Sudan

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)mediated a revised ARCSS with a special focus on the chapter pertaining to security arrangements because it was recognized that the July 2016 relapse into violent conflict could have been avoided if there was a different security protocol in place in Juba. 

In the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), the IGAD mediation avoided the principle of two armies that caused war in Juba and came up with a different modality of unified forces subject to the condition that this unified force be trained and deployed within eight months before commencement of the transition. The plan was unrealistic and failed to meet the specified timeline. Mobilizing troops to join cantonment sites was not an easy task particularly with South Sudan struggling to finance peace implementation in the absence of support from the international partners. In fact, the unified forces are still in the training centres awaiting graduation.

National and State institutions of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) were formed based on the new power-sharing arrangements. The formula for power-sharing brought a coalition of more than 30 political parties to the government with five vice presidents, 35 cabinet ministers and 550 members of parliament. This is the largest government in the region.

 The government is negotiating with the holdout groups of South Sudan Opposition Movements’ Alliance (SSOMA) to join the peace process after they have signed the cessation of hostilities that brought tranquility in some parts of the Equatoria region.    

Coming back to Sudan, the transition to a civilian government on 11 April 2019 created new momentum and provided opportunity for the two countries to move from a status of confrontation to cooperation and to work together for welfare of their citizens and regional peace and stability. 

The regime of the former president Bashir brought the country into crises with the international community by harboring terrorist organisations and exercising actions that contradict international laws and norms. The country was on the list of State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism of the United States (US) for many years.  

By mediating the resolution of the Sudanese conflict despite all that has happened in the past, South Sudan positioned itself as a key player in peace and stability in the region.

As a condition to normalize with Sudan after the removal of the Bashir’s government, the international community insisted that a negotiated peaceful settlement has to be reached with armed oppositions in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile. South Sudan seized the opportunity and mediated peace negotiations as a way of contributing to the African Union agenda of silencing guns on the continent by 2020 and creating harmony in Sudan. A peaceful and stable Sudan in the strategic interest of South Sudan as the two countries share one of longest borders in Africa and many commonalities. 

President Salva Kiir, through his role as the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), has established a personal relationship with many leaders in Sudan and utilized his position and persuaded them to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Sudan.  

In August 2019, the leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) a collation of armed and non-armed groups together with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement- North (SPLM-N) led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu converged in Juba and began peace negotiations.

On 3 October 2020, the parties signed the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA), witnessed by leaders in the region as well as the international community. The signing of the JPA and formation of the transitional government in Khartoum paved the way for Sudan’s removal from the list of US  State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism and helped  its reconciliation with the international community including debts relief. By mediating the resolution of the Sudanese conflict despite all that has happened in the past, South Sudan positioned itself as a key player in peace and stability in the region.

The role played by Juba was internationally appreciated and enabled South Sudan and Sudan move to a new era of cooperation instead of confrontation. 

Dr. Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol is the Minister of Investment in the Revitalized Government of National Unity, Republic of South Sudan. He also served as Secretary of the South Sudan Mediation Committee during the Sudanese Peace Talks in Juba.

ACCORD recognizes its longstanding partnerships with the European Union, and the Governments of Canada, Finland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, UK, and USA.

ACCORD recognizes its longstanding partnerships with the European Union, and the Governments of Canada, Finland, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, UK, and USA.

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