South Sudan and the Prospects for Peace Amidst Violent Political Wrangling
Author: Jok Madut Jok
Organization: The Sudd Institute
Type: Policy Briefs
The unfolding unrest in South Sudan, beginning with the events of December 15th, 2013 in Juba when fighting broke out within the presidential guard and had spread to Greater Upper Nile within two days, may not have been exactly predictable, but it was not entirely surprising. Surely, the abrupt nature of it, the scale of violence within a single military unit, the rapid spread to other branches of the armed forces in other states, the speed at which it begun to take on ethnic overtones and the death toll of over 1,000 people, many of them civilians, has shocked the population. How South Sudan seemed to have gone from one day of confidence that it will weather the political disagreements within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the country’s ruling party, to the next day of near total unraveling was definitely terrifying for Juba residents. It has also caught the international community within the country – represented by the United Nations, European Union, African Union and various diplomatic missions – totally off guard.
Most alarmed by these developments were neighboring countries in East Africa and the Horn. Uganda scrambled to intervene and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Haile Mariam Deslaigne and the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta descended on Juba on December 26 to explore any possibilities of mediating a dialogue between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his wayward Vice President, Riek Machar Teny, who is now heading what is increasingly referred to as a rebellion, which the government says followed a failed coup attempt. The Inter-Governmental Agency on Development (IGAD), a regional grouping that has been central to peace negotiations of Sudanese conflicts before South Sudan’s Independence and understands the complexities of the conflicts more than few other bodies do, convened a summit in Nairobi on December 27, 2013 in order to explore how to end the mayhem that has already caused huge casualties in revenge attacks by the Nuer on the Dinka in Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile states for the attacks against the Nuer that were orchestrated in Juba by government soldiers. President Kiir attended the Nairobi summit but Mr. Machar is still difficult to reach, somewhere deep in the swamps of the Upper Nile’s Sudd.
Jok Madut Jok is cofounder of the Sudd Institute. Born and raised in Sudan, Jok studied in Egypt and the United States. He is trained in the anthropology of health and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Jok recently joined the Government of South Sudan as undersecretary in the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. He was a J. Randolph Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute. He is a Professor in the Department of History at Loyola Marymount University in California, from which he is on an extended leave. He has also worked in aid and development, first as a humanitarian aid worker and has been a consultant for a number of aid agencies. He is the author of three books and numerous articles covering gender, sexuality and reproductive health, humanitarian aid, ethnography of political violence, gender-based violence, war and slavery, and the politics of identity in Sudan. His book Sudan: Race, Religion and Violence, was published in 2007. Jok is co-editor of The Sudan Handbook, 2010.