Source: Sudd Institute
“The National Dialogue Final Resolutions: What the Presidency should do” by Augustino Ting Mayai, 19/01/2021.
In December 2020, the South Sudan National Dialogue Steering Committee
(NDSC) published its concluding report regarding the National Dialogue
(ND) process. Drawing from its consultations, conferences, and outputs
produced since the process kicked off in 2017, this Final Report
summarizes the Committee’s main findings and respective
recommendations. A vast majority of the views criticizes the SPLM and
its leaders for a colossal failure to govern South Sudan. The NDSC
asserts that this failure is rooted in a power struggle and political
stalemate, which must be broken if the country is to move forward.
To break the political deadlock, it recommends that both President Salva
Kiir Mayardit and FVP Dr. Riek Machar should now step aside, enabling
the country to eventually heal and prosper. If the two cannot step
aside right away, according to the views from the grassroots, they
should come out openly to declare that they will not run in the coming
elections, which are scheduled at the end of the Transitional Period.
This particular call has recently stirred significant public debate,
with the Presidency’s Press Secretary, Hon. Ateny Wek Ateny, accusing
the NDSC of overstepping its mandate.
This Review analyzes this debate and provides policy perspectives on
how the leadership and the country can actually benefit from the ND’s
resolutions. In our previous review, we recommended that the National
Dialogue Resolutions Implementation Committee (NDRIC) be instituted to
guide the government in implementing the ND’s resolutions. We build on
that recommendation here by re-emphasizing the significance of the
ND’s public pronouncements to the country’s current peace process.
Old grudges and empty coffers: South Sudan’s precarious peace process
‘The risk is rising that some opposition forces could return to conflict.’
The New Humanitarian
21 January 2021
On the streets of South Sudan’s capital city, billboards honour the
country’s politicians for ending five years of conflict that cost
almost 400,000 lives and displaced millions. “Peacemakers” and
“Children of God” declares one poster, quoting the Bible alongside a
photo of the president.
But nearly a year after President Salva Kiir formed a unity government
with opposition leader Riek Machar – now the vice-president – key
parts of the agreement have not been implemented amid entrenched
distrust between the two men, funding shortages, and renewed fighting
that cost thousands of lives in 2020.
Nyadid Racho from western Pibor – where famine is thought to be
occurring – says she has seen little benefit from the deal. The
40-year-old told The New Humanitarian ongoing clashes between
community militias cost the lives of two of her children last year –
both starved to death within days of each other.
“If we hadn’t been attacked, and if our cattle were not taken, my
children would still be alive,” Racho said.
Many South Sudanese who spoke to TNH on a visit to the country in
December questioned the political will for peace, while analysts fear
disenchantment within Machar’s camp over the slow progress could soon
fuel new outbreaks of violence.
“As various parts of the peace deal stall, the risk is rising that
some opposition forces could return to conflict or try to sue for
peace on their own terms,” said Alan Boswell, a South Sudan analyst
with the International Crisis Group.
The current agreement is the second between Kiir and Machar since
civil war broke out in 2013 – two years after South Sudan gained
independence from Sudan. The collapse of the last deal, in 2016,
resulted in widespread violence in the capital, Juba, as Machar fled
South Sudan on foot.
While fighting between forces loyal to the two men has largely
subsided over the past 12 months, inter-communal violence – stirred by
political elites in Juba – has displaced thousands in places like
Deadly clashes have also broken out between government troops and
dissident rebel groups who have refused to join the power-sharing
deal, which was signed in September 2018.
Insufficient funding for the agreement is further complicating
efforts. Dozens of mostly opposition troops have starved to death in
cantonment and training sites as they wait to join a new national
army, while peace deal officials in Juba have been chased from hotels
because the government isn’t paying their bills – $10 million is owed
to nine hotels.
As the agreement stagnates, a humanitarian crisis is worsening. Deadly
violence, torrential rains, and a contracting economy have left more
than 100,000 people facing “phase five” catastrophic levels of hunger,
and tens of thousands experiencing likely famine conditions, according
to a November report published by the Integrated Food Security Phase
Machar and Kiir shook hands and hugged last year when they agreed to
work together. But trust runs thin between the old foes who have been
squabbling over appointments for political positions – leaving most
state and county posts unfilled and a new parliament yet to be
In some cases, delays in appointing governors for the country’s 10
states have resulted in dangerous political vacuums. Though nine
governor positions have now been confirmed, controversy lingers in the
northeastern state of Upper Nile, where Kiir is resisting Machar’s
choice of Johnson Olony – a man accused of committing war crimes.
Goanar Gordon Yien, a press secretary for Machar, told TNH that Kiir’s
regime is trying to undermine the peace agreement by co-opting
opposition military officials with expensive cars, money, and weapons.
Several high-ranking soldiers have indeed defected from Machar’s camp
in recent months – in some cases triggering fighting between
government and opposition forces that has cost lives and damaged
“If we have money, let us use it to implement the peace,” said Yien.
“[The government is] not using it for good things, they’re using it to
destroy the peace agreement.”
The government did not respond to repeated requests by TNH for
comment, though acting army spokesman Santo Domic Chol said the
administration is committed to peace and is not bribing opposition
Machar has also incurred criticism from members of his own party. Some
question his commitment to the peace agreement, as well as his
appointment of friends and family to key positions in the unity
government. Others say he is neglecting constituents and troops in the
countryside, having not left Juba in almost a year.
Many South Sudanese blame both men for the enduring crisis. A recently
published report from the country’s National Dialogue Steering
Committee, an initiative that gathered the views of tens of thousands
of ordinary people, called for the two politicians to resign ahead of
elections scheduled for 2023.
“They have… created an unbreakable political deadlock in the country,
and they no longer have the political will or moral leadership
capacity to move beyond personal grudges and egos,” the report stated.
Funding woes and starving soldiers
Speaking to TNH via WhatsApp, Stephen Par Kuol, secretary general for
the National Transition Committee, the government body in charge of
implementing the peace deal, blamed financial problems for the
Falling oil prices – South Sudan’s main revenue source – and the
economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic have left the government
with “no funds as things stand now”, Kuol said.
While the international community has given in-kind aid – such as food
for military cantonment sites – to support the peace process, South
Sudan’s main foreign donors have shied away from directly financing
Funding shortages are particularly acute at the cantonment sites,
where tens of thousands of soldiers are waiting to enrol in a new,
unified national army combining opposition and government forces.
The national army, a central component of the 2018 agreement, was
supposed to be created within months. But the process has dragged out
for more than a year and a half, with around 40,000 soldiers still
untrained and 47,000 more awaiting graduation.
As of October, 77 soldiers participating in the process had starved to
death in camps, according to Wesley Welebe, co-chair of the Joint
Transitional Security Committee, the body charged with unifying and
training the forces.
Welebe said a lack of food, adequate shelter, medicine, and water is
pushing some soldiers to leave the camps and return to their villages.
“When they go back and have nothing to do… they’ll mobilise the
community and start something else,” he added.
Fighting on multiple fronts
As the agreement has faltered, violence has escalated in some parts of
the country. In the western state of Jonglei and the administrative
area of Pibor, more than 30,000 people are now likely in famine
following months of heavy rain and militia clashes.
Fighting between government forces and the National Salvation Front –
a rebel group that refused to sign the peace deal because its leader
believes power is too concentrated in the hands of Kiir and Machar –
has displaced thousands in southwestern Yei and surrounding areas.
Civilians from Yei say they are caught between both sides: One man
from the area told TNH rebels abducted his uncle last year, while
government troops who suspect them of supporting the group hinder free
movement with “roadblocks and harassment”.
“If both sides don’t stop fighting, it will be a mess,” said the man,
who asked not to be named for security reasons.
Violence is feared in other parts of the country too. In Upper Nile,
some analysts said conflict linked to land tensions may break out
between the Shilluk and the Padang Dinka should Olony – who is from
the former ethnic group – be appointed governor.
“Olony could bring peace to the area, but his appointment could also
trigger fresh violence if it’s not handled well by the government,”
said Edmund Yakani, executive director of Community Empowerment for
Progress Organization, a civil society group.
Little has been done, meanwhile, to unify soldiers who fought each
other for years. In Pibor, government army commander Korok Nyal said
150 soldiers from the ethnic Murle group left a training site in
nearby Bor town out of concern they would be targeted by troops from
other ethnic groups. In the southern state of Central Equatoria,
another commander told TNH his men have no contact at all with
Denial and diversion of aid
Despite peace deal signatories commiting to create an environment
conducive to the delivery of aid, humanitarian flights have been
blocked and hundreds of tonnes of food aid stolen in Pibor and
Jonglei, where residents are most in need.
In a report in October, the UN Commission on Human Rights for South
Sudan, said it had reasonable grounds to believe the denial and
diversion of aid to people in Jonglei could amount to war crimes.
The government has also refused to endorse the findings of the
IPC-published food security report. In December, it released its own
version, which fails to mention famine and claims just 11,000 people
are experiencing “catastrophic” hunger – a small fraction of the IPC
While the government protects its image, residents of Pibor continue
to struggle. Hunger is rising, violence is expected to pick up as the
dry season approaches, and hope in the peace agreement is increasingly
difficult to find.
“It’s really hard to tell if there’s peace or not,” said 45-year-old
Bongan Allan, whose five children were abducted during an outbreak of
violence in February 2020. “We’re just staying here, as people take
away our cattle and our children die of hunger.”