Fragmentation of Peacemaking in South Sudan: Reality and Perception

Authors: Kuyang Harriet Logo and Bernardo Mariani

Attempts to manage and resolve the conflict in South Sudan have seen the involvement of numerous international actors, including neighbouring countries—namely Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya—the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union (AU), the so-called Troika (United States, United Kingdom, and Norway), as well as the EU, China and the UN.

Interviews with a cross-section of national stakeholders demonstrate a deep sense of scepticism about the efficacy of peacemaking and peacebuilding initiatives in South Sudan to date and indicate great apprehension that these initiatives have had any positive impact for the lives of ordinary citizens. Peacemaking and peacebuilding have been externally-led, top-down initiatives with IGAD, the Troika and the AU leading peace efforts. These are marked by an inadequate commitment from South Sudanese political elites, and a disconnect between those elites and ordinary citizens’ quest for justice. Seldom fully participatory and holistic, the peace negotiations are limited to the top political leaders and are very detached from the victims and communities who have borne the brunt of the war.

Western countries’ reduced engagement in the peace process and the appeal of non-Western actors through their political and economic links have created space for non-Western countries’ initiatives and new approaches to peace. Regional powers — especially Sudan and Uganda — played a key role in the 2018 South Sudan’s peace agreement, managing to persuade South Sudanese political leaders to make concessions during critical peace negotiations. Among the global powers, China—South Sudan’s main trading partner, with a “no strings attached relationship” —has found a peacemaking role in South Sudan, a country that continues to test China’s diplomatic leadership and political commitment.

While peace remains extremely fragile in South Sudan, the country is also caught in the middle of inter-regional rivalries. Most notable are the disputes between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) hydropower project, with South Sudanese leaders trying to maintain good relations with all the neighbouring countries while also engaging in mediation efforts between them.

The Global Transitions Series looks at fragmentations in the global order and how these impact peace and transition settlements. It explores why and how different third-party actors – state, intergovernmental, and non-governmental – intervene in conflicts, and how they see themselves contributing to reduction of conflict and risks of conflict relapse. The series critically assesses the growth and diversification of global and regional responses to contemporary conflicts. It also asks how local actors are navigating this multiplicity of mediators and peacebuilders and how this is shaping conflict outcomes and post-conflict governance.