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This Week in South Sudan – Week 25

Monday 16 June

Tuesday 17 June

Wednesday 18 June

Thursday 19 June

Friday 20 June

Saturday 21 June

Sunday 22 June

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This Week in South Sudan – Week 24

Monday 9 June

Tuesday 10 June

Wednesday 11 June

 Thursday 12 June

Friday 13 June

Saturday 14 June

Sunday 15 June

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This Week in South Sudan – Week 23

Monday 2 June

 Tuesday 3 June

Wednesday 4 June

Thursday 5 June

Friday 6 June

Sunday 8 June

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This week in South Sudan – Week 22

Monday 26 May

Tuesday 27 May

Wednesday 28 May

Thursday 29 May

Friday 30 May

Saturday 31 May

Sunday 1 June

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The price of fast-track peace-making: Considering May 2014

May 2014 appears to be a momentous month for South Sudanese politics. The government signed two peace agreements on 9th May in Addis Ababa, and the South Sudan Humanitarian Conference took place on 19-20th May in Oslo.

Mobilising over USD610, the Oslo conference was a response to the crisis induced by the continuing conflict in South Sudan. Although presented in the hue of a broad international conference, only half of the 41 countries present at the conference pledged new money, and a closer look at the funds pledged reveals that the Troika (USA, UK and Norway) collectively accounted for over three quarters of the money.

These funds are intended to alleviate humanitarian needs inside South Sudan and those of refugees in neighbouring countries. Of particular concern was a looming famine in many parts of the South. Protection of civilians was one issue deliberated during the conference, but it is unclear to what extent any of the new funds are intended to finance the planned up-scaled UNMISS operations or the IGAD-led monitoring mechanisms – both operations will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. International humanitarian assistance is however a corollary to the efforts of ending the war in South Sudan, which in this case has to be accomplished through negotiations.

On 9 May Salva Kiir and Riek Machar signed, on behalf of the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLMiO), an Agreement to Resolve the Crisis in South Sudan. Although the two-page agreement was described as a significant step forward in the peace process, it is by and large a reconfirmation of commitments made in earlier rounds of the IGAD-led negotiations. Furthermore, immediately afterwards, each of them claimed that he had experienced undue pressure from the Ethiopian host to sign the agreement. It appears that the for the hyped and hasty signing ceremony may have been the Oslo donor conference.

Despite some low-level fighting in the days following the signing ceremony, the two parties have generally met their commitment to a month of tranquillity. With a few days to go, it remains to be seen if the other substantial commitment – of meeting again within a month – will be honoured. The parties also agreed that an inclusive interim government is a necessary part of the solution to the crisis, but they did not decide on the composition of such a government or on when it is to be formed.

The SPLMiO has called for a new national leadership, but Salva Kiir has signalled that he is not intending to step down. The SPLMiO also demands governance reforms including the adoption of a federal constitution, a demand echoed by non-aligned Equatorian politicians. The government is apprehensive and sees federalism as a threat to national cohesion and prefers non-federal decentralisation.

The GoSS resistance to federalism is undermined, however, by the second, less-publicised, peace agreement between Salva Kiir and David Yau Yau, the leader of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (Cobra Faction). It, the “Jonglei Peace Deal”, is commendable for ending four years of on-and-off insurgency in Pibor County, but it poses a threat to national integrity. It establishes the eastern part of Jonglei as an autonomous region for the Murle ethnic group and promises development funding from the central government, special rights to manage water and pasture resources, and concessions over internal borders. The new arrangements bypass the current governance structure in Jonglei and might encourage other disgruntled groups to intensify their activities. It is still too early to say whether this is the start of South Sudan’s fragmentation, but the stage is set for an upsurge of ethnic and regional demands.

The weakness of the May 9 agreements is to a large extent the consequence of the haste with which they were made. This is symptomatic of the dilemmas facing external actors involved in peace processes in the two Sudans. There are good reasons for accelerated processes: protracted warfare not only takes an unacceptable toll in terms of human lives and destroyed livelihoods, but it also undermines South Sudan as a political project. However, as the catastrophic outcome of the 2006 Darfur peace agreement illustrates, forcing through premature solutions in South Sudan may be devastating in the long run.

Øystein H. Rolandsen, senior researcher PRIO, and Sebabatso Manoeli, DPhil student, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.



Since we published this analysis, the month of tranquility ceased sharply on 31 May as fighting reignited between SPLMiO and the GoSS troops. The recent events corroborate the argument that the external pressure exerted on the two signatories could not circumvent the essential ingredient for peace: political will, on both sides. The continuing conflict indicates that the two parties did not have a sense of ownership over the agreement, and that signing on 9 May may have been premature. The UN’s insistence on holding those who transgress the agreement accountable leads to questions about the kind of justice that can and will be meted out.

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This Week in South Sudan – Week 21

Monday 19 May

Tuesday 20 May

 Wednesday 21 May

 Thursday 22 May

Friday 23 May

Saturday 24 May

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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


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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

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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.

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