Read more here:
The volume of analysis and reports published on the Sudans is immense. And yet there is limited critical commentary on most material. In what may become a semi-regular feature, I hope from time to time to review the most important of this emerging literature.
This week, a seminal report, Revitalizing Peace in South Sudan: Citizen Perceptions of the Peace Process, was published under the auspices of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum (SSCSF). The report offers a valuable, evidence-based approach to an area where evidence is scant: what average South Sudanese think, know and want.
I’ve left the blog untended for too long. In case you missed them, here are four recent articles I have authored or co-authored about this eventful time:
November: Historian Douglas Johnson, geographer Matthew Pritchard and I wrote ‘After the Khartoum Agreement: Boundary Making and the 32 States in South Sudan,’ a briefing published by the Rift Valley Institute. While a new national government and revised security arrangements are the focus of South Sudan’s September 2018 peace deal, the accord also establishes two new commissions to decide the number of states and their boundaries. We discuss the history of boundary-making in South Sudan, and the prospects for the new commissions to resolve the underlying disagreements.
September: I discuss what is new (and not) in the September 2018 peace agreement in South Sudan, consider why the government agreed to the deal, and explain the agreement’s risks in this USIP briefing.
August: Payton Knopf and I discuss the South Sudan mediation context, and the evolving roles of Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia in the process. And earlier in the month, with serious deficiencies in the draft agreement still in the (as then unsigned) text, I warn ‘that any agreement, should, at minimum, not make things any worse. If not corrected, certain provisions in the agreement may directly spur new violence,’ in an op-ed for The Hill.
Twenty problems with the December 2017 cessation of hostilities agreement
Later this evening, a cessation of hostilities agreement (CoHA) between the government of South Sudan and eight South Sudanese armed groups comes into effect. The agreement, signed in Addis Ababa and mediated by IGAD, was welcomed by many South Sudanese and the international community (see statements from the AU, Troika, and EU).
The African Union Chairperson called the CoHA a ‘critical first step in the efforts to end the senseless conflict and carnage that has been unfolding in South Sudan since December 2013.’ This CoHA, is, however, the eighth agreement since January 2014 to speak of ending hostilities.
While I’d like to be hopeful about this agreement and join in the optimism of these statements, this CoHA is entirely conventional. It is thus likely to be dogged by the same problems that have seen past agreements fail.
All cessation of hostilities and ceasefire agreements depend on three factors to succeed:
- the will to implement;
- the ability to investigate, verify and deter violations;
- and, the means to avoid escalating minor breaches of the ceasefire, so that, for example, one undisciplined soldier firing a rifle doesn’t cause a full scale battle.
This CoHA falls short on all three counts.
South Sudan faces an existential crisis. More than four million people – between a third and half of the population – are displaced from their homes. Nearly eight million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The economy is in tatters. After almost four years of civil war, conflict has devolved into fighting across multiple fronts.
In an attempt to address the ongoing crisis, the Horn of Africa’s regional organisation, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), initiated the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) in June. The forum is intended to revive an effectively defunct 2015 peace accord, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), which collapsed following fighting in Juba in July 2016 between government forces and the armed opposition loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar.
The United States Institute of Peace published my briefing on the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), intended to revive the stalled 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan. I offer recommendations for the international community in anticipation of the launch of the HLRF, suggesting its success hinges on clarifying serious ambiguities that exist in its design, including the questions of who will participate and the extent of the agenda. Read more here.