South Sudan: The Roots and Prospects of a Multifaceted Crisis

05-03-2014

The violent conflict that erupted in South Sudan during the night of 15 December 2013 had many triggers, the closest being political disputes between the country's top politicians, President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar. The fact the December crisis escalated into an open civil war reflects underlying tensions and wider misgivings within the South Sudanese population, especially between ethnic Dinka and ethnic Nuer. External actors – mainly the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the United Nations, the EU and the US – have played a crucial role in supporting a population that has faced significant human rights abuses and humanitarian shortfalls. These actors have also worked to find a negotiated solution to the crisis from the outset, brokering the ceasefire agreement signed on 23 January 2014. However, the peace deal between the two parties marks only the beginning; the process of reconciliation, rehabilitation and nation-building will be long, and reports of violations of the ceasefire demonstrate the fragility of the situation. Immediate, as well as medium- and long-term, challenges must be addressed swiftly, so that Africa's youngest state can embark a credible path to development.

The violent conflict that erupted in South Sudan during the night of 15 December 2013 had many triggers, the closest being political disputes between the country's top politicians, President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar. The fact the December crisis escalated into an open civil war reflects underlying tensions and wider misgivings within the South Sudanese population, especially between ethnic Dinka and ethnic Nuer. External actors – mainly the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the United Nations, the EU and the US – have played a crucial role in supporting a population that has faced significant human rights abuses and humanitarian shortfalls. These actors have also worked to find a negotiated solution to the crisis from the outset, brokering the ceasefire agreement signed on 23 January 2014. However, the peace deal between the two parties marks only the beginning; the process of reconciliation, rehabilitation and nation-building will be long, and reports of violations of the ceasefire demonstrate the fragility of the situation. Immediate, as well as medium- and long-term, challenges must be addressed swiftly, so that Africa's youngest state can embark a credible path to development.