August 17: Tipping Point for the South Sudan Crisis?

*Dr Sunday Angoma OKELLO

With the approaching August 17 deadline to reach an agreement for the South Sudan Crisis, Minister of Information Michael Makuei told reporters late Wednesday, after a week of talks in Ethiopia “There are some outstanding areas where, if we don’t agree, we don’t need to deceive ourselves and talk of peace“. Power sharing, allocation of oil-revenue and issues related to Federalism and re-integration of armies from warring factions remain unresolved. Should we then expect the start of peace or another stalemate in the cycle of violence that erupted in South Sudan since December 2013?

_80716182_c3193c51-814c-42e9-8e8a-5558b28c7d0fWhen South Sudan’s short-lived joy for independence ended, the New Country plunged into internal war on December 15 2013 following a power struggle between Vice President Dr Riek Machar and President Salvar Kiir. The war quickly spiralled from Juba, the Capital to other states’ and their captures of capitals of Jonglei (Bor), Upper Nile (Malakal) and Unity (Bentiu) which have changed hands from the rebel-led Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) headed by, the former Vice President Riek Machar to the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) led by President Salvar Kiir.

salva-kiir-and-riek-with-igad-heads-of-state-600x360The conflict has been dragging on for 20 months now, and the several rounds of support from IGAD-led mediation did not strike a deal between the antagonizing parties. However, the IGAD-led mediation transformed itself into IGAD-PLUS comprising of the United Nations(UN), African Union (AU), the Trioka trio of the USA, the United Kingdom (UK) and Norway, the European Union, China as well as five African countries of Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Chad and Rwanda. With no clear solutions in sight, the IGAD-PLUS “served” the fighting parties with a compromise agreement with an overtone of a “take it or leave it” as is the only chance for Salvar Kiir and Dr Riek Machar to end the conflict. Yet both personalities have canvassed their positions that have mirrored personality indifference and negative body chemistry that emits bitter dislikes of one another, making references the historical indifferences that continue to debar them from reaching a peaceful settlement.


In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 and released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), civilians fleeing violence seek refuge at the UNMISS compound in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, in South Sudan. Less than three years after its creation, the world's newest country is beginning to fracture along ethnic lines in violence that has killed hundreds of people and what could come next, some warn, is ethnic cleansing. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Hailemichael Gebrekrstos)Having followed the deadlocks and disregards to heed to regional calls to end the conflict and reach a peaceful agreement, the international communities have expressed fatigue, impatience and dire concerns for the immense humanitarian crisis in the country.  Since the outbreak of the conflict 10 000 people have been killed, 700 000 refugees left the country and more than one million have been internally displaced. These have resulted to the mounting pressures on both parties. Yet, hostilities continue and some senior commanders from both sides have been sanctioned with more threat of sanctions issued by the USA, the EU and UN.

As the August 17, 2015 deadline to reach a Compromise Agreement (CA) draws closer, pushing for Salvar Kiir and Dr Riek Machar to end their political and ethnic indifferences, the question remains as to what options are left. There are enormous expectations from the South Sudanese parties to heed to the CA by this dateline, but it is extremely unclear what to expect from whatever outcome the compromise agreement might bring. The dilemmas, refuting and refusing to accept the nature of the content of the CA; suspicion, mistrust, and support from Uganda are limiting factors to agree to CA. These have also brought the irony of political travesty that seem to make political solutions to the conflict improbable. There seem to be an imported and unexpectedly convulsed political animosities from the internal historically embedded conflict and hatred the SPLA/M have had into and by IGAD-led and IGAD-PLUS peace process. With all these animosities that have been brought into peace negotiations the options have been significantly minimized. Nonetheless, some options can be analyzed:

Option 1: The irony of South Sudan political travesty may be reached by a win-win (50/50) chance. This option, which has been exercised at the level of allowing IGAD to bring the antagonizing parties to reach a negotiated peace agreement, is “compromised” in the draft agreement. This option has gathered opportunities from the various phases of the peace talks, and now resting on the plight of the deliverance of the IGAD-PLUS to make the parties agree. This chance is slipping by as recent news attests to the factionalization of the SPLM-IO.

Option 2: To work with the status quo scenario, meaning maintaining and strengthening the role of the President Salva Kiir in his presidential position and re-enforcing viable solutions around his leadership will allow the current government to go. This is also what Ugandan Government is providing using their UPDF to Salvar Kiir. This means that protestors and SPLM-IO will have to accept to support their leader whether weak or not and accept the role Uganda is playing. This chance is nowhere in sight now.

Option 3: Give war a chance. This is the worst option in terms of undertaking war until the winner emerges with victory – victor’s peace. This unthinkable option is mainly being observed on the ground where war has continued and killings of immeasurable scale are still raging. The winner takes it all has several shortfalls, but in reality, the war is taking place.

Option 4: Consider Salva Kiir and Riek Machar as undesirable and unsuitable to take up the leadership of the young nation, considering the personal hatred they have. Their previous attempts to work together have been damaged and squandered and the impossibilities of working together again are suspected will resume war. This would lead us into the next option five.

Option 5: Allow the international community to form a lean government that will be led by experts for a certain period while stabilization programmes takes centre stage of making governance work. This option may mean that the entire South Sudanese people have failed to realize the benefits of their 35 years of struggle to get independence and that all has lost meaning.

Option 6: A combination of some of the five options, which would also try to follow what the compromise agreement is about when August 17th 2015 passes, the concoction of governance will not have been clearly discovered. Anything from seeing an internal coup d’ etat in South Sudan and cracks from within the SPLA-IO may not be ruled out. An option based on forming a unity government may be possible here. Federalism has also factored in the conflict, pitting Equatorians squarely in the governance issues.

Option 7: Mandate an external military to rely on peace enforcement by subduing either the opposing movement or fully empowering the government through the UN PSC support system.  This option may be demonstrated with the support of the government of South Sudan, AU and UN. This means that the initiative that Ugandan government, expanded to the AU and UN-PSC is improved and strengthened until all opposing sides realize that there is need to work together. This option is similar to the work of AMISOM in Somalia

*Dr. Sunday Okello ( is an Assistant Professor and Senior Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), Addis Ababa University.All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact

August 17 : should we expect a compromise agreement for the South Sudan Crisis?

As the world anticiaptes the August 17 Deadline for the signing of a IGAD mediated compromise deal between warring factions in South Sudan, Dr. Getachew Zeru Gebrekidan, Assistant professor at The Institute for Peace and Security Studies(IPSS) and visiting Southern Voices African Research Scholar at the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center(WWW) shares his recommendations for a viable and sustainable solution in the South Sudan Crisis.

For a view of the full presentation on The Role of IGAD: A Regional Approach to the Crisis in South Sudan by Dr. Getachew at the Center please follow the this link:

Bridging the Divide: Bringing Aid and Military Force Together in the DRC

By Stephen Hindes*

The Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has arguably become one of the most persistent and complex conflicts in Africa. Now, with the region being host to a massive influx of aid workers and the largest UN peacekeeping mission in MONUSCO (the United Nations Organisation Stabilization Mission in the DRC) a testament to the difficulties the international community has in bringing peace and stability to countries at war with themselves.  While the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) was meant to give the UN and the DRC government a proactive means through which to address the chronic insecurity of the region; its implementation, which was the first time the UN mandated a military force with an explicitly offensive mission, and subsequent decisions in who it does and does not attack invigorated, a debate surrounds the relationship between the use of military force and aid. With MONUSCO now beginning to look for a way out, both the FIB and the aid community are going to have to put their differences aside and find a way to work together if there is to be any hope in a region where such has been a rare commodity.

Despite the swift defeat of the M23 rebel group by the FIB after their takeover of Goma in November of 2013, history has demonstrated that military victory is only temporary if not part of a broader political plan. Since 9/11, whole of-government responses blending military force with aid targeted at alleviating local grievances have been viewed as the best approach for securing peace amidst intra-state conflict. Yet as the counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated, aid organisations have been reluctant to get to close to military forces for fear of compromising their core values of impartiality and neutrality – values they deem necessary to be able to carry out their work. In the DRC, the fear that the FIB is just another armed group pursing its own agenda amongst many others doing the same has given this sentiment voice amongst the aid community in the region.

This fear is not unfounded. DRC analyst Jason Stearns explains [i]that the FIB came with a heavy dose of regional politics. According to him, a major reason South Africa and Tanzania wanted to be part of the FIB was due to their feuding with Rwanda, a fact that has had ramifications for how it has carried out its mandate. While the FIB was quick to defeat the M23 rebel group, this was largely due to its strong relationship with Rwanda. When it has come to operations against the FDLR (the French acronym for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), the Hutu rebel group that has been active in the region for around 20 years, the FIB has shown reluctance to commit to that fight, fuelling speculation both countries have been using the FIB to satisfy their own political desires.

Despite this, the DRC painfully demonstrates that despite the presence of an army of foreign aid workers occupying towns such as Goma and Bukavu, aid alone has not worked. In nine out of the previous ten years, the DRC has been amongst the top ten recipients of humanitarian assistance and between 2003 and 2012 received $17.6 billion in Official Development Assistance. Yet in 2014 the DRC ranked amongst the bottom five in the UN Human Development Index rankings, a harsh reminder that aid alone has not worked.

Therefore, the issue facing the FIB and the eastern DRC may not be the politcalization of the FIB per se, but rather ensuring that the right politics come into play. As Clausewitz noted, war is but the extension of politics, and winning the day in any conflict is achieved by whoever can best exploit military force for political gain. For the United Nations this has meant throwing its weight behind the DRC government. While the actions of the FARDC, the DRC national army, has meant this alliance has at times resembled a hand-shake with the devil, it has been a necessary choice. Given the eclectic mix of tribal groups and militias roaming the country-side, further fragmentation would be worse.

The FIB and the aid community therefore should not fear the political ramifications of its use but instead ensure its use is tailored towards a more appropriate political outcome for the DRC and its people. This will require the aid community to work alongside it. While the FIB can create the space needed for stability measures to be implemented by removing threats and deterring others, it is the aid community who are best equipped to work within these communities to ensure these measures are locally driven and sustainable. The aid community therefore needs to realize they are also political actors despite their claims to being completely impartial and neutral. Hugo Slim, scholar for the Centre of Humanitarian Dialogue, made this point when he explained that most aid agencies are multi-mandated. As he said, while aid agencies work to secure the implementation of aid programs for those in need, there actions and presence have political implications. As such, aid agencies need to realize that while they may differ in means, often, they share the same desired ends as government forces, in the case, the FIB.

If the DRC is to move forward and break its cycle of poverty and conflict, the aid community and the FIB are going to have to find a way to align their political agendas. If the international community’s experience in the region has taught us anything, it is that not doing so is a sure recipe for failure.

[i] Via email correspondence with the author

*Stephen Hindes ( ) holds a Double Masters in Policing, Intelligence and Counter-terrorism and International Security Studies from Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, and a Bachelor of International Studies (International Relations) from Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia..All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact

N.B:  The much-anticipated Journal on African Centered Solutions by The Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) is coming your way. Wish to contribute? Please follow this link for more information.

“The more Africans are going to solve African Problems the better off we are going to be”

*By The AfSol Blog Team

Last Week, Kenya, Ethiopia and the African Union (AU) welcomed the visit of the head of State of one of our world’s most powerful nation. Discussing a number of wide issues during his two stop African last round trip, President Obama of the United States of America has reinforced the principle of African Centered Solutions for African problems. He endorsed the principle for the fight of counter-insurgency in Somalia, the resolution of the Crisis in South Sudan, Economic Regional Integration and most importantly the limitations of presidential terms in the continent.

The partnership between the US and Ethiopia as a model in counterterrorism in the Horn

In a joint press statement with Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia, President Obama affirmed how the jointly executed operations between the two countries should be an aspired for model. Acclaiming, “Ethiopians are one of the toughest fighters”, he acknowledged Ethiopia and the AMISOM (African Mission in Somalia) as equal partners in the region. The capacity of Al-Shabab is diminishing and this is because of the collaborations between the USA and the Horn of Africa. His country works on building the capacity of the regional peacekeeping force while the region offers the required personnel.

Yet, the picture is not as colorful as painted. Al-Shabab is not giving up: its recent bombing of the Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu is a testimony to the ongoing decade long battle with the region. The countdown of causalities has ruled that for AMISOM this was one of its toughest years. Finally, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has still to galvanize the support of the nation, so many years after its set up.

Nevertheless, this is a model to pursue: a synergy between Africans equipped with the knowledge of their regional peculiarities and western partners who offer capacity building.

South Sudan: “We don’t have time to wait; the situation is getting much much worse

President Obama gave his concern to the deteriorating Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan as well as the stalemate of the negotiations between the Government of South Sudan lead by Salvaa Kiir and the rebel forces lead by Riek Machar. In fact, this is one of the reasons for Obama’s African round trip. Though attesting to the regional interest in the newly independent but most importantly oil rich South Sudan, the President has hailed the engagement of IGAD in mediating a peace agreement. He has also condemned the leaders for being stubborn, and for putting their interest over their nations. He argued in line with other analysts that the crisis in South Sudan is a personal rather than a political conflict.

The surprising factor however is that with the upcoming deadline is August 17.Although PM Hailemariam said that he was “hopeful”, President Obama or the AU for that matter of fact has not stated what will follow the leaders if they didn’t reach an agreement by then. Warnings of sanctions have not been heard, only soft condemnations.

It has to be easier for Africans to trade amongst themselves than to trade with Europe or the USA

Despite the grim picture of ongoing conflicts here and there, both Dr. Zuma and President Obama did not forget to appreciate that “Africa is on the rise”. They have highlighted the positive economic rise of the continent. Africa has been growing on average of 5% a year since the end of the 20th century still forecasted, to grow annually at a 4.0% for the coming years. The continent is also home to the fastest growing economies in the world with the rise of a middle class expected to hit 1 billion in 2060.  It is also home to the world’s youngest population (70% of Africa’s population is under the age of 30) with a growing Entrepreneurs class.

However, the numbers do not match the poverty striken and unemployed large African population. Almost half of Africans are illiterate, and the incidence of their unemployment is close to 20%.

Additionally, Africa’s largest trading partner is not Africa but China with exchanges worth 200 billion US dollars: inter-African Trade only amounts to 12% of the total trade Africa conducts. Despite the launch of the Roadmap of The Continental Free Trade Area, countries have yet to diversify their products, which are dominantly the same primary products.

 “The law is the law” … “ I don’t understand why people want to stay too long

President Obama did not hesitate to raise his concerns vis a vis Democracy and Human Rights in the Africa.

From the 1990’s onwards, because of the third wave of democratization, more than 75% of African states have included in their constitutions clauses that limit power tenures to two terms for the exception of Seychelles, which sets the limit to three. This falls in line with t AU’s strong commitment to promote “democratic principles and conditions” in the continent.

Yet the recent crisis in the Burundi presidential elections that allowed Pierre Nkurinziza a third term in Office, or the third term campaign advanced by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila’s are sparking controversies with regards to the idea of limits for presidential terms. Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guniea are then coming in with the longest standing heads of states. In fact, it seems to have launched a culture of “third termism and more” in the African Continent. President Obama did not refrain from commenting on the issue. He remarked that he could find other ways to serve his country and that long serving leaders should follow his lead and give way for the coming generation.

All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact