Scenarios for South Sudan in 2020

Year of Publication
Document Publisher/Creator
Dr. Jaïr van der Lijn
NGO associated?
Although a peace agreement that includes important steps to build a stable andpeaceful South Sudan was signed in 2015, the future of the country remains highlyuncertain. Violent confrontations and human rights abuses continue and frequentlyit appears that parties have more faith in victory after a renewed offensive, than inpeace. Yet, although implementation of the peace agreement is lagging, talks progress, albeitpainfully slowly and with few results. In this environment, future scenarios are useful as theygather thoughts on possible long-term developments, stimulate open debate and may assist inpolicy planning.

The scenarios described in this report are intended to give a picture of how South Sudan mightlook in 2020, determined by three key uncertainties:

1 Will life in South Sudan be dominated by war and armed political conflict or willthere be predominantly peace – or at least the absence of large-scale armedpolitical violence?

2 Will South Sudan make progress towards good governance or will the countryface a further downturn towards bad governance?

3 Will governance in South Sudan be further decentralised (by design or violently)or will there be no further decentralisation and central governance is perhaps strengthened even further?

The five scenarios presented in this report are:

1 United in diversity: The 2015 peace agreement holds and the peace processleads to a further decentralised federal system and better guarantees for goodgovernance. The organisation of free and fair elections is one of the first stepsin a long and difficult process towards sustainable peace.

2 Divided leadership: After the opposition rejects the election results, its forcesoccupy part of the country, effectively splitting the country in two. The war stabilisesalong a frontline and consequently some of the improvements that had beenmade in good governance and development are maintained.

3 Fragmentation: After the peace agreement breaks down, slowly the governmentcollapses and opposition groups fragment. South Sudan lacks any form of nationalgovernance system. Politics is local and about the highest price: life and security.

4 21 Kingdoms: After a bloody victory of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movementin Opposition (SPLM-IO), South Sudan is divided into 21 states based on ethnicpower divisions. Some states do reasonably well, while others face ethnic conflictsand autocracy.

5 Dictatorship: With the SPLM-IO reduced to a low-level insurgency, the SudanPeople’s Liberation Movement in Government (SPLM-IG) embraces anyonewilling to return back to the party. The new 28 states do not lead to furtherdecentralisation as the SPLM-IG leadership reduces the political space for anyremaining opposition and dissent.

The first main message from the scenarios is that there is hope. If the parties stick to the 2015peace agreement and implement, consolidate and deepen the peace process, slowly South Sudanmay be on the road towards a positive future: the United in diversity scenario.

The second main message is that, if this is not the case, the 2015 peace agreement does nothold and the peace process is not opened-up, the future is far less hopeful. Broadly speaking,the scenarios show that the alternatives to the scenario United in diversity, as portrayed in thefour other scenarios, entail horrible devastation and/or repression.