From post-conflict recovery and state building to a renewed humanitarian emergency: A brief reflection on South Sudan

Year of Publication
Document Publisher/Creator
Daniel Maxwell and Martina Santschi
Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium
NGO associated?
Source URL
Since December 2013 – only two and a half years after it became an independent country – South Sudan has been mired in a deep political, military, and humanitarian crisis. Heavy fighting erupted on 15 December between members of armed forces in Juba, the capital. Tensions and power struggles within the leadership ranks of the leading political party of South Sudan – the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) – had preceded the fighting. The armed violence quickly spread to other states in South Sudan and has brought human rights violations, death, and destruction to Juba and to Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity States.1 Within a few weeks, several thousand South Sudanese were killed. As of mid-June 2014, about 1.5 million South Sudanese are displaced either within South Sudan or as refugees in neighbouring countries; 94,000 South Sudanese are sheltering in ‘Protection of Civilian’ locations protected by the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS); and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs projects that around 3.8 million South Sudanese need assistance in 2014 – only half of whom are being reached.2 A nationwide food security analysis led by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) in collaboration with development partners in June declared large parts of Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile States to be in a humanitarian emergency,3 and the President himself has raised the spectre of famine later in the year.4In response to the crisis, the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) began in early January to facilitate ceasefire talks between the main parties of conflict: the GRSS, led by the SPLM, and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO). Since their onset, the Addis Ababa talks have been delayed several times. The GRSS and the SPLM/A-IO signed agreements on cessation of hostilities in January and again in May; but despite these agreements, the fighting continues and the new round of peace talks has been postponed.

This paper does not explore the background of the crisis. Many other reports have offered varying views of the events that led to the spreading violence in South Sudan. This paper is intended as a brief reflection on the current situation in South Sudan, based on meetings with GRSS, donors, humanitarian agencies, and members of South Sudanese civil society during a two-week mission by SLRC5 members in mid to late June. It outlines a few observations on the current situation; the breakdown of post- conflict mechanisms that were being put in place prior to the outbreak of the current violence in December; the peace process as it currently stands; and the humanitarian response. It concludes with some reflections on the need for better information and analysis, and outlines a short-term research agenda.