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By Stephen Arrno - 9 Sep 2019

Opinion | Would the South Sudanese mediator Solve Sudan’s protracted conflict?

At the signing ceremony of the ‘constitutional document’ in Sudan, H.E President Salva Kiir Mayardit, of the Republic of South Sudan made strong-worded speech pushing for a South Sudanese role in mediating conflict between the transitional government and Sudanese armed groups.

Although President Kiir remains with the highest stakes in a peaceful neighborhood; however, such may not necessitate a direct role since there is an ongoing process under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR 2046) that mandated the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to mediate peace in Sudan. This, however, does not undermine the role of key influencers and stakeholders, but it should be realized that having many forums often always generate problems as they open appetites for forum-shopping and as such spoil prospects for justness and eventually peace. Learning from history and during the early stages of negotiating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) Egypt came up with the Joint Egyptian and Libyan Initiative (JELI). Egypt’s foreign minister – by then – insisted that without the (JELI) the IGAD process is ‘dead wood unfit for burning’ (Khalid, 2015, 84). Dr. John Garang insisted on one forum and asked the JELI to back IGAD rather than establish another forum that may attract forum shoppers.

It is unfortunate that history repeats itself in the case of Sudan. One question that is often missed out in the search of peace, including during the time when former President al Bashir took initiative to restore peace in South Sudan, is the ‘how’ question. The question in successful mediation is about how to bring peace through creating trust, confidence and acceptance of the process. It is more of having the political clout regionally and intentionally to deliver an acceptable process that address the root causes of Sudan’s civil war. British Historian, Douglas Johnson (2016) made an excellent and a nuanced scholarship with regards to the nature of conflict in Sudan – he went to a great depth of tracing structural violence to 1821. Unfortunately, five years down the line he realized more gaps that he included when he updated his book ‘The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil War: Peace or Truce’ in the 2016 edition. I am sure he may revisit it as often as possible if given the chance. In short the Sudanese political question is intractable, protracted as it spans more than two centuries.

South Sudan, although a key stakeholder in any Sudanese peace process – has been subject to structural violence orchestrated by the Sudanese state. The people of South Sudan spent fifty years fighting injustices that consequently led many to vote to exit the Sudanese state as the only remaining remedial option. This experience could possibly make a prospective South Sudanese mediator well informed and better placed. However, would a South Sudanese mediator ready to support such an option for those who may float it at the negotiation table and what kind of guarantees? Would the Sudanese authorities accept such to be part of a South Sudanese mediation agenda – to me it is the same catch 22 situation that tempted Egypt to snatch the IGAD peace forum for Sudan. The only difference is that South Sudan may be genuinely seeking to push for a just peace, while at the time the JELI aimed to block demands for South Sudan self-determination. It is unconceivable that Egypt and Libya by then would have accepted to have self-determination in the peace agenda.

An interesting perspective with regards to post- Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) conflict in the Sudan is the fact that it quickly informed agenda at regional (African Union) and international (UNSC) levels. This has made the solution beyond bilateral engagements or at least within sub-regional levels including the IGAD. There could be many reasons for internationalizing the post-CPA conflict, but it should be noted that from the onset the Sudan and South Sudan issues were placed as one file. On the 2nd of May 2012, the United Nations Security Council made its resolution (UNSCR 2046) that corroborated this interdependency by placing many issues of the Sudans into one resolution. The two countries became like ‘Siamese twins’. To someone unfamiliar with the Sudans, the resolution hardly made distinctions between what is Sudanese and South Sudanese. Concerns are mixed with no clear lines of responsibility. This could have been due to the blur line between non-state armed actors who seem to have links to authorities in the other’s state.

Article (3) of the UNSCR (2046) remains clearest as it defines the conflict in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan as an independent agenda, but remains part of a resolution regulating issues between the Sudans. Within Article (3), the UNSC calls on the parties – the government of Sudan and the SPLM in the two areas to convene and negotiate an earlier agreement – the Framework Agreement of June, 2011 facilitated by the (AUHIP). The Framework Agreement (June, 2011) calls for forging a political partnership between the former ruling party the National Congress Party (NCP) and the SPLM in the two areas that includes settling issues of armed conflict. Since that time more than 19 rounds of talks were made until the NCP was uprooted through popular uprising in April 2019. It should be noted that despite the international and regional backings to the AUHIP mediation led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, little could be achieved.  The strong mandate that remains part of the UN Chapter VIII, with the principle of subsidiarity could not help in resolving conflicts in Sudan for over eight years. The problem is not with the mandate but with the prescribed solution that remains highly problematic in peace and conflict resolution. Pushing for a ‘power-sharing’/ partnership or any other form without getting to root causes made the solution suggested as part of UNSCR (2046) rejected by both parties.

The failure of the AUHIP to get the parties to the agreement is not due to the absence of a ‘hurting stalemate’ or an absence of a capable mediator – the reason is simple – Sudanese elites are not ready for real transition. A transition that can lead to real peace by addressing root causes. It is unfortunate that African sub-regional actors are ever tempted to offer mediation as part of what is considered regional security dynamics by putting resources of either mediating or deploying troops in their neighborhood as part of securing interests. Although appreciated in some instances such as the IGAD intervention in Somalia and other cases such as intervention in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, it should be noted that sub-regional interventions in the neighborhood are equally criticized. Brosig, (2014) considers such interventions as ‘meddling into neighbor’s affairs’ and using such intervention to extend foreign policy.

With this prelude the question remains what value would Sudan bring in to the realization of peace in South Sudan. Since I am not writing about the role of former president al Bashir in brokering peace in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) and in Central African Republic (CAR), I reverse the question by asking what added value would South Sudan bring to Sudan peace process. Reverting back to Sudan, empirical evidence suggests that Sudan holds the key to insurgency in South Sudan and in CAR. In South Sudan the Sudanese military intelligence provided surmountable support to insurgents starting with the Jonglei insurgency and others to the 2013 conflict (LeBrun, 2016). The same also applies in its support to three regions in the North-Eastern parts of CAR that constitute the home base of the Seleka (Coalition in Sango language) insurgents (McGrew, 2016). These three regions today have declared independence as dar al Kuti or the Longone Republic (ICG, 2017).

For South Sudan the UNSCR (2046) bears intrinsic condemnation as it did not make distinctions between what is Sudanese and South Sudanese. The Sudanese government have ever used threats against the Republic of South Sudan with the claim that South Sudan harbors and supports SPLM-North. In a way or another the government of South Sudan is a secondary stakeholder to conflict in the Sudan. However, the question here is does South Sudan has the political traction to solve a problem that made South Sudan as an entity to opt for independence and self-determination.

It should be noted that South Sudan has good standing with all opposition groups in the Sudan and as such have a moral standing. This, however, would be deceptive to assume that the solution of Sudan (and to some extents South Sudan) lies outside its territories. As stated by Dr. John Garang that “Sudan is ever in search of its Soul; albeit in the wrong place” (Khalid, 2015) resonates with the current dynamics. The South Sudanese mediator should realize that the problem at stake is the same problem that punctuated the history of Sudan over the past two centuries. Sudan remain deeply ingrained in divided nationalism and contested political dispensation. What made South Sudanese to opt for secession is the same problem facing the remainder of the country. The question here is would the South Sudanese mediator guarantee self-determination to the Nuba people, the Blue Nile and the people of Darfur or any others who consider such demand remedial to a protracted culture of state violence. Does the South Sudanese mediator realize that any forum would compromise UNSCR (2046) and regional and sub-regional mandates?

In conclusion the unfinished business in the Sudan peace process requires prudent approaches that would stem structural violence practiced in Sudan over the past 200 years. Interestingly from the nominations and endorsements, the upcoming transitional government in Sudan continues to show symptoms of these long entrenched ills of the Sudan. Although there are some elements of regional balance but such remains largely within what Dr. John Garang referred to as ‘symbolic representation’. Problem of national identity and managing diversity remains wanting. The new appointments continue to exclude certain ethnicities, religious and social groups. If Sudan remains an exclusively riverine state with Arab-Islamic identities, then any presumed transition would not take Sudan anywhere. Such happened in 1956 by excluding the Southern region and others, it was repeated during the 1964 uprising, it happened again in 1986 and a chance for reforms through the CPA was also scuttled leading to two miserable states. As Albert Einstein suggested, it is insane to continue repeating the same thing hoping to get a different result. A South Sudanese mediator could make a good mediator, but must be aware of these realities. Any intervention that falls short in addressing root causes of conflict would be considered a foreign policy that is part of regional security dynamics. Having such an expedient approach have shaped African approaches in conflict resolution over the past two decades. It should be noted that South Sudan has fallen victim of regional security dynamics through the hands of many neighboring actors who pushed their political interests as part of ARCSS and later R-ARCSS; ostensibly such agreements never bring peace or stem violence.

The author is a PhD Candidate studying International Relations with focus in Conflict, Peace and Security. He is reachable through .


Brosig, Malte. (2014) African Solutions to African Problems, or Meddling in Your Neighbour’s Conflict? Is Peace Keeping Raising Inter-State Tension? The International Training Program for Conflict Management (ITPCM) International Commentary July, 2014, vol. x no. 36 ISSN 2239-7949

Johnson, Douglas. (2016) The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars: Peace or Truce. James Currey: UK (Revised Edition).

Khalid, Mansur. (2015) The Paradox of Two Sudans: The CPA and the Road to Partition. Africa World Press: New Jersey.

ICG (June, 2019) ‘Making the Central African Republic’s Latest Peace Agreement Stick’. Africa Report N°277 | 18 June 2019

ICG (September, 2017) ‘Avoiding the Worst in Central African Republic Africa Report’ Africa Report N°253 | 28 September 2017

LeBrun, Emile. (2016) ‘Small Arms and Armed Violence in Sudan and South Sudan An Assessment of Empirical Research Undertaken since 2005’. Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies: Geneva. Retrieved from

McGrew, Laura. (2016) ‘Conflict Analysis: Central African Republic’. Catholic Relief Service, Report

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