South Sudan - Tribal Warfare 2013-201?
Alex de Waal wrote in 2016 "South Sudan today is a collapsed political marketplace. The country’s political market was structured by competitive militarized clientelism for access to oil rents. Those oil rents have almost disappeared but the structure of competition is unchanged and the price of loyalty has not reduced to a level commensurate with the available political funding. The result is that political loyalty and services are rewarded with license to plunder. This is inherently self-destructive. South Sudan’s political economy is being consumed to feed its political-military elite.
"President Salva Kiir) provided access to oil rents in return for political allegiance. By this means, he was able to bring the majority of armed groups into the SPLA’s ‘big tent’, but only on the basis of spending most government revenue on an unreformed security sector. This maintained a façade of unity among the political elites. It secured independence. However, the viability of the system was entirely dependent on a continued inflow of oil funds, and when that was shut off in January 2012, it was only a matter of time before the system crashed. When political rivalries for the leadership inevitably emerged, Pres. Kiir did not possess the funds, repressive apparatus, or political skills to maintain his position: the war arose from a mismanaged kleptocracy."
At least ten thousand people were killed in the first month of fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and soldiers backing former deputy, Riek Machar, who was dismissed in July 2013. By New Year 2014 thousands had been killed in tribal warfare that pitted Dinka troops against Nuer combatants. Some 250,000 people had been displaced by the fighting as of 09 January 2014, and while no official death toll has been released, a top U.N. official saidit is likely to be "very substantially in excess of the figure of 1,000 that we know for sure about."
Tensions within South Sudan, the world’s youngest country which only gained independence in July 2011 after seceding from Sudan, burst out into open conflict on 15 December when President Salva Kiir's Government said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed in July 2013, launched an attempted coup. Kiir belongs to the Dinka ethnic group and Machar to the Lou Nuer.
After decades of struggle, by 2005 the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) wase the dominant single political movement in Southern Sudan, and the genesis of a one-party state. On July 30, 2005, long-time SPLM leader John Garang died in a helicopter crash. The SPLM/A named Salva Kiir, Garang’s deputy, as President of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS). The July 2005 death of Garang and the formation of the Government of South Sudan gave the SPLM opportunities to bring rivals and former adversaries into the fold. The enlargement process intensified factionalism within the SPLM. While the SPLM has no serious political rival in the South, there are internal strains.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit dismissed his entire government, including Vice President Riek Machar, in a decree issued late July 24, 2013. Kiir also removed all deputy ministers. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s Minister of Information and government spokesman before the restructuring announcement said a government makeover was overdue and that Kiir acted within the constitution. He rejected any suggestion that the reshuffle, as he called it, might cause instability in the world’s youngest country.
Alarmed by the increased conflict and violence in South Sudan, particularly the eastern state of Jonglei, the Security Council on 23 August 2013 strongly condemned attacks on civilians and the looting of UN and other international aid organizations’ facilities, and called on the Government to expedite safe and unhindered humanitarian access to the people cut off from aid. In a statement to the press, the Council “called on all parties, including armed militias, to exercise restraint, refrain from any acts of violence against civilians" and to “fully respect their obligations under applicable international law, including human rights law and international humanitarian law." An estimated 100,000 civilians in Jonglei alone have been cut off from life-saving assistance as a result of fighting between State and non-state armed actors, and the recent resurgence of inter-communal clashes.
On November 26, 2013 South Sudan’s former Vice President Riek Machar said he was putting structures in place to challenge President Salva Kiir for the leadership of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) ahead of the 2015 general election. Some supporters of the ruling party said he was one of a group of visionless and directionless people in the party who were power hungry and intent on enriching themselves.
In December 2013, the political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar descended into violence, which by the end of 2014 left at least 10,000 people dead and more than 1.8 million displaced.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed 07 November 2014 on a power sharing formula in a deal to establish a national transitional government that would help steer the world’s newest nation to elections. The two warring leaders also called on their troops for an immediate cease-fire during the ongoing peace talks in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
One year after South Sudan's political infighting deteriorated into a deadly conflict, the parties appeared no closer to silencing their guns and getting back to the business of building the world’s youngest nation. Since its 2011 move to independence, the country spiraled into a humanitarian crisis that the UN said left half the population hungry and nearly two million displaced. Politically motivated fighting over the past year alone killed tens of thousands South Sudanese. More than a year of fighting in South Sudan left more than 10,000 people dead.
South Sudan - 2016
Critics of South Sudan’s government say it appeared that Kiir and his administration weren't interested in sharing power with the rebels, despite the agreement. They argue that the government will use state institutions, including the army, to undermine the pact.
Rebels loyal to former South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar hailed a power sharing deal reached 07 January 2016 with the government as a positive breakthrough, one that they say brings their country one more step closer to peace. The agreement, signed in Juba, allocated a total of 30 ministries for a proposed transitional government of national unity. It gave the South Sudan government 16 ministries, including finance and planning, defense, information, national security, and justice and constitutional affairs. The rebels got 10 ministries, including petroleum, interior, labor, mining, and land, housing and urban development. Foreign affairs and transport were given to a group of former political detainees not aligned with either the South Sudan government or the rebels. Other political parties in South Sudan got two.
According to the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission timetable, a government of national unity should be in place by January 22, 2016, with rebel leader Machar as first vice president of Sudan.
On 11 February 2016 South Sudan's President Salva Kiir appointed rebel leader Riek Machar to be first vice president in a coalition government, in what could be an important step toward ending the country's civil war. The move came after the East African bloc IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authorty on Development, urged Kiir and Machar to form a transitional government of national unity. Kiir's decree returned Machar to the No. 2 slot in South Sudan's government, more than 2½ years after Kiir fired Machar and the entire cabinet in July 2013.
On 19 February 2016 Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, noted that the initial signing of the peace agreement in August had been met with optimism that the parties to the conflict would abide by their declaration of a permanent ceasefire and halt their attacks on the civilian population. “However, the reconciliatory rhetoric propagated by Government and opposition actors has deflected from the fact that the parties to the conflict continue to attack, kill, abduct, rape, arbitrarily detain, and forcefully displace civilians, and pillage and destroy their property...
"With the diffusion of armed conflict in all parts of the country, and the creation of local armed groups fighting against Government troops, South Sudan faces the risk of fragmentation and related human rights violations ... “It cannot be tolerated that leaders make declarations in Juba, while the hostilities and attacks on the civilian population continue and intensify across the country. Not only is South Sudan on the verge of fragmenting, but the conflict seriously threatens stability in the entire region," he said.
In South Sudan, by early 2016 tens of thousands had been killed and more than 2 million had fled their homes since civil war flared up two years earlier. Supporters of both President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar accused each other of violating a cease-fire agreement. The current fall in oil prices contributed to the dire situation since the country's income is heavily dependant on oil revenues. Production, which stood at 245,000 barrels per day before violence erupted, was down by roughly a third. Falling oil prices, combined with a fixed fee for the use of export pipelines, meant that South Sudan is now losing money on every barrel it sells.
A report on South Sudan published 11 March 2016 by the UN Human Rights Office described “in searing detail" a multitude of horrendous human rights violations, including a Government-operated “scorched earth policy," and deliberate targeting of civilians for killing, rape and pillage. Although all parties to the conflict have committed patterns of serious and systematic violence against civilians since fighting broke out in December 2013, the report said state actors bore the greatest responsibility during 2015, given the weakening of opposition forces.
The scale of sexual violence was "particularly shocking" : in five months last year, from April to September 2015, the UN recorded more than 1,300 reports of rape in just one of South Sudan’s ten states, oil-rich Unity. Credible sources indicate groups allied to the Government are being allowed to rape women in lieu of wages but opposition groups and criminal gangs have also been preying on women and girls.
On April 26, 2016 South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar finally returned to the capital and took the oath as the country's top vice president. Machar's arrival raised hopes the government and rebels can move ahead with a peace deal signed in 2015 to end the country's 30-month civil war. After the swearing-in, President Salva Kiir said he and Machar "will immediately proceed to form the Transitional Government of National Unity" called for in the peace accord.
On 02 June 2016 South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, First Vice President and former rebel leader Riek Machar, and Vice President James Wani Igga met to talk about the remaining stumbling blocks impeding full implementation of the peace agreement. The three leaders discussed the demilitarization of Juba City, cantonment sites for SPLA-In Opposition forces in the three regions of Upper Nile, Equatoria and Bahr El Ghazal, and the dispute over the 28 states that Kiir unilaterally created last year. The leaders will form a national committee to study proposed states and borders that are mutually agreeable. The committee is made up of 15 members: four from the SPLM, three from the SPLM-In Opposition, one from the former detainees, two from the political parties and three from the Troika countries of the United States, Britain and Norway. Tanzania and South Africa will also contribute two members.
As thousands of South Sudanese refugees continued to pour into Uganda to escape attacks from armed forces, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) sounded the alarm. It said 15 February 2017 the dire situation had created the third largest largest refugee crisis after Syria and Afghanistan. Thousands of refugees streamed into Uganda since intense fighting broke out again in July 2016 following the collapse of a peace deal between the government and opposition forces. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, announced today that more than 1.5 million people have now been forced to flee the country and seek safety since conflict erupted in December 2013. With an extremely volatile security situation forcing more refugees to flee, the latest influx strained the capacity of transit and reception centres, which are too small for the growing number of arrivals.
Since January 2017, more than 52,000 refugees have been received in Uganda, with the majority crossing at border entry points such as Busia, the one Sidah and her family used, to find refuge. Many refugees are using informal entry points citing the presence of armed groups on the routes to the main border points. Thousands more made huge detours on foot to escape South Sudan, heading south through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, then east into Uganda for fear of attacks from armed forces present along the direct routes. Some report walking for more than a month before finally reaching safety.
The majority of the refugees were hosted by Uganda, where a total of some 698,000 have now arrived. In less than six months, Uganda has more than tripled its population of South Sudanese refugees, hosting the largest share of the people who have fled their homes in the neighbouring country. Ethiopia is also hosting some 342,000, while more than 305,000 otthers are in Sudan and some 89,000 in Kenya, 68,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 4,900 in the Central African Republic.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list