South Sudan’s failing peace deal

South Sudan with current ten states South Sudan with current ten states Nordnordwest
20 Oct
2015
One month after signing a peace deal between South Sudan’s two warring sides, President Salva Kiir Mayardit announces he wants to split the new country into 28 separate states

Recent outbreaks of violence in towns and cities make it hard to be optimistic about any results of the peace deal, which included a ceasefire between Salva Kiir Mayardit’s party, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO). However, recent decisions by Kiir may pose an even greater threat to the agreement than the ceasefire violations.

At just four years of age, South Sudan has been named the world’s most failed state. In 2013, just two years after becoming independent from Sudan, the country fell into civil war between its two most prominent tribal factions: the Dinka and Nuer. According to recent figures, the conflict has internally displaced 1.5 million South Sudanese and a further 600,000 have fled the country since 2013.

In September, looming threats of trade embargos from the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) pressured Kiir to sign a peace deal, the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS). One month on, as vicious fighting continues, Kiir has announced he would like to split the country into 28 states – an act that would violate the terms of the peace deal.

Deng Gach Pal, former Cabinet Secretary and Head of Civil Service of South Sudan’s Upper Nile State, describes this move as ‘power abuse’. He says Kiir ‘unilaterally issued the decree of splitting the country, contrary to the power sharing ratios of the ARCSS, which were based on ten states’.

‘This presidential decree is absolutely illegal and contravenes both the agreement and the Constitution.’

kiirSalva Kiir Mayardit, Chairman of the SPLM has been President of South Sudan since 2011 (Image: Day Donaldson)

DISSOLVING THE PARTY CABINET 

Not only does Kiir want to create 28 states, the chairman has also dissolved the entire leadership cabinet of his party, including the secretary general and deputy chairman. This result is what Róisín Read, research associate of the Humanitarian and Response Institute at the University of Manchester, says is clear ‘political manoeuvring’. 

‘Salva Kiir made it very clear that he didn’t want to sign the agreement, only doing it eventually under the threat of UN sanctions. These unilateral actions he has subsequently taken are hard to read as anything other than provocations in light of Kiir’s unhappiness with the deal,’ says Read.

Decentralising South Sudan into 28 states is not a new idea. In fact, devolving powers to the country’s local tribal districts has been a popular concept since before independence. However, the timing of Kiir’s decision is being perceived as being less an act of altruism and more as a means for Kiir to undermine the agreement and perhaps increase his popularity at the same time.

‘The manner of the announcement will cause many to wonder if this is decentralisation in the model of Uganda,’ says Read, ‘which in practice strengthened the presidency by dividing the country along ethnic lines and extending patronage networks.’

THE FUTURE OF SOUTH SUDAN

Meanwhile, the country is experiencing severe inflation and depreciation of local currency – symptoms of the civil war. It is feared that the desperate atmosphere, without organised action, will fall back into indefinite fighting.

‘Unless the guarantors of the Peace agreement – IGAD, the UN and Troika countries of the UK, US and Norway – take drastic measures against the government or pressurise President Salva Kiir to revoke his illegal decree, I am afraid, full scale war will inevitably resume,’ says Pal. ‘The opposition will not accept this action.’

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

2 comments

  • Majakism What nonsense? Kiir did what every South Sudanese had been longing for - federalism. Giving power to the people through equal distribution of resources and making sure that the targets are reachable at the grassroots. No one can dictate what is good and bad for South Sudan.
    The idea of 28 or "more states" came from SPLM-IO who, ironically, now wants to disown it. Free 28 states for a freere South Sudan.
    Wednesday, 21 October 2015 21:30 posted by Majakism
  • Eyn Gai It is hard to see an exit from this violence in the country. Much has been made about the issue of 21 States by SPLM-IO and 28 States by Government respectively. The real issue now is that the two leaders in both camps and especially Salva Kiir is/are unwilling to work together towards peace - Kiir sees this as loose loose game since Peace deal document weakens his powers. Wednesday, 21 October 2015 04:48 posted by Eyn Gai

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital has a green future, ...
    The Money Trail
    Remittance payments are a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of the global economy. But the impact on nations receiving the money isn’t just a ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.