What is happening in South Sudan? Nine years on from the signing of the Comprehesive Peace Agreement (CPA) – which ended decades of conflict between southern insurgents and the Sudanese government in Khartoum – and three years after the independence vote, South Sudan is again in the grips of violence. After weeks of clashes, over 1,000 people have died and nearly 200,000 displaced.
What went wrong? The creation of South Sudan took place amidst great hope and optimism, but nation building, for the world’s youngest country, has not been an easy undertaking. Researchers at the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) have closely followed South Sudan, through its fight for independence and as it struggles to build itself into a nation.
Now, ODI reflects on the recent events – and those further back in history – to better understand what has happened in the country, and what it means for the future.
In a new opinion piece, Sara Pantuliano argues that donors and other international actors should question the adequacy of their support to the transition and take a hard look at the policies they supported, the misleading narratives of progress, and the type of aid programmes they funded and carried out in South Sudan. She calls – as she has done all along since the signing of the CPA - for greater analysis of power relations, causes of vulnerability and drivers of conflict, to better understand the underlying tensions in South Sudan and meaningfully support the transition.
Earlier in 2013, we published Humanitarian Exchange 57: South Sudan at a crossroads, which emphasized existing humanitarian challenges in the country, including ongoing conflict in Jonglei State, as authors debated whether it was too early to shift from humanitarian to development programming in South Sudan.
Dating even further back, Aiding the peace: a multi-donor evaluation of support to conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities in southern Sudan 2005–2010, released in 2010, warned of unresolved drivers of instability, including fears of discrimination along ethnic lines, stressing that donor and aid agency focus on development may not bring about greater peace or reconciliation.
These issues were also highlighted in an ODI Opinion in 2009 by Sara Pantuliano, who argued: “transitioning from war to peace is not a technical exercise, but a highly political process”, emphasising the need for aid programming and policies to be based on better understanding of the complexity of the situation in South Sudan.