Fighting between the two main signatories of the 2018 Revitalised Agreement erupted this month, putting at risk an already fragile transition. With only a year until the country’s first elections, South Sudan is under pressure to comply with the key provisions of the agreement which requires full participation of both the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in Government (SPLM-IG) under President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) led by Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny.
Clashes between South Sudan’s military and forces loyal to Macharhave been reported in various areas since about 20 March. Days later, the head of the SPLM-IO, Gen. Gatluak Bieh Tutdel, was killed by South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) in Maiwut County of Upper Nile state.198 After days of ongoing battles between both parties, on 24 March the SSPDF spokesman indicated “SPLA-IO has officially declared War on SSPDF.”199 The repeated attacks on Upper Nile state military bases as well as the “inconsistencies” in meetings and implementing resolutions led South Sudan’s armed opposition to pull out of peace monitoring mechanism, Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC). In a statement, SPLM-IO military chief Gen. Gabriel Duop Lam, indicated the attacks by the SPLM-IG amount to “the continuation of war with destructive results to the civil population in the areas affected by this destructive policy.”200 SPLM-IO’s declaration led for fighting to soar, yet president Kiir denied any declaration of war and ensured the implementation of the agreement was on track.201
A lack of consensus on the creation of a unified national army, as per the 2018 agreement, led Kiir to order the creation of the army, which Machar rejected, for considering it to pre-empt ongoing mediation.202 After, security forces were deployed in some areas of Juba throughout the weekend, including near the residence of Machar, where they stayed until Monday morning.203 Machar released a statement condemning the actions, under which he was put under house arrest, indicating “It was a provocative and condemnable act reminiscent of incidents of December 15, 2013; J1 July 8, 2016; and the last week unnecessary parading of the newly acquired heavy weapons and APCs204 for the National Police, which are still in the streets of Juba. These create terror and panic.”205 Machar reached out to the countries of the IGAD, especially from Sudan’s Al-Burhan, to come to his aid against President Kiir.206
On 30 March, the ruling SPLM-IG indicated it would address the issues that led to the withdrawal of SPLM/A-IO from the security mechanisms.207 With less than a year to go until the end of the transitional period, the failure to comply with the agreement as well as imperfect elections could aggravate existing tensions and the ongoing violence.
A recent report concerning the purported attempted coups of 2013 and 2016 was published by Steven Kay QC and his team at 9BR.208 The report places responsibility on Machar and his allies for the attempted coups and releases phone communications as evidence. SPLM-IO critisised the report and claimed it was biased and overlooked atrocities committed by the SPLM-IG.209
South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. Two years later, a political crisis erupted and turned into a civil war that took on an ethnic tone. The conflict quickly spread throughout the country, civilians were targeted on the basis of their ethnicity and/or perceived political affiliation, almost 400,000 people lost their lives during that time. All parties to the conflict committed rape and sexual violence, destroyed property and looted villages, and recruited children into their ranks. A mediation conducted by Uganda and Sudan in 2018 led the two main belligerents, Kiir and Machar reach a peace deal to end the war.
Violence has fuelled famine and food insecurity in the country and caused large-scale displacement of civilians inside and outside its borders. In February 2020, two years after signing President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former Vice President Riek Machar agreed on implementing the 2018 Revitalized Agreement, yet they have been slow to execute many of its provisions.
In March 2022, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan presented its sixth report to the UN Human Rights Council. The report noted that South Sudan is at a critical moment of transition with the implementation of the peace agreement lagging behind schedule. 8.9 million people in South Sudan are estimated to be in need. Predatory political elites have stolen aid intended to help vulnerable people, the Commission claimed. Activists working to promote transitional justice have been forced to flee the country.210 In addition, the Commission presented a 48-page paper on the widespread and systematic sexual violence going on throughout South Sudan. Sexual violence has, the Commission argues, “been instrumentalized as a reward and an entitlement for youth and men participating in the conflict” intended to “inflict maximum disruption and the destruction of the fabric of communities.”211
The UN Security Council held a meeting on the 2023 elections in the country where they explored ways to address outstanding issues established during the Revitalized Agreement212 and on 15 March voted to extend the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for one year.213
The head of UNMISS urged all signatories to respect the agreement and expressed concern of the increasing violence in the Upper Nile.214
The United States extended the national emergency on South Sudan until April 2023, considering it poses extraordinary threat to the security and foreign policy of the country.215
The Troika expressed concern over the clashes among the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces and SPLM-IO and called on the government to “exercise leadership and oversight of the nation’s security forces to maintain discipline and compliance with the peace agreement.”216
198 Sudans Post, “Top SPLA-IO general killed in Maiwut,” 23 March 2022, https://www.sudanspost.com/top-spla-io-general-killed-in-maiwut/
199 Sudans Post, “SSPDF says SPLA-IO has declared war as fresh fighting erupts in Maiwut,” 24 March 2022, https://www.sudanspost.com/sspdf-says-spla-io-has-declared-war-as-fresh-fighting-erupts-in- maiwut/
200 Sudans Post, “PLM-IO withdraws from R-JMEC, says use of proxies by Kiir means return to war,” 23 March 2022, https://www.sudanspost.com/splm-io-withdraws-from-r-jmec-says-use-of-proxies-by-kiir- means-return-to-war/
201 Eye Radio, “Kiir says peace on track despite challenges in the implementation,” 28 March 2022, https://www.eyeradio.org/kiir-says-peace-on-track-despite-challenges-in-the-implementation/
202 Radio International France, “South Sudan peace agreement under pressure amid disagreements over military,” 28 March 2022, https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20220328-south-sudan-peace-agreement-under- pressure-amid-disagreements-over-militaryvice-president-riek-machar-president-salva-kiir
203 Eye Radio, “Kiir says peace on track despite challenges in the implementation,” 28 March 2022, https://www.eyeradio.org/kiir-says-peace-on-track-despite-challenges-in-the-implementation/
204 Armored personnel carriers
205 Facebook SPLM-IO Sudan Chapter, 28 March 2022, https://www.facebook.com/102885514803187/photos/statement-from-fvp-dr-riek-machar-on-sunday- night-march-27-2022-without-prior-in/509722527452815/
206 Africa News, “South Sudan: Machar calls on Sudan’s General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for help,” 28 March 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/03/28/south-sudan-machar-calls-on-sudan-s-general- abdel-fattah-al-burhan-for-help/
207 The City Review, “Kiir reaches out to Machar to end stalemate, bad blood,” 30 March 2022, https://cityreviewss.com/kiir-reaches-out-to-machar-to-end-stalemate-bad-blood/
208 Read full report here: http://southsudanreports.com/
209 The City Review, “SPLM/A-IO slams report linking Machar to coups,” 31 March 2022, https://cityreviewss.com/splm-a-io-slams-report-linking-machar-to-coups/
210 Peter Kenny, “South Sudan Pillages Aid Meant for People, Says UN Commission,” 18 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203180925.html?utm_campaign=daily- headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=aans-view-link
211 Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, “Conflict-related Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in South Sudan,” 21 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/view/resource/main/main/id/00130673.html
212 UNSC, SC/14821, South Sudan Not Ready for Free, Fair Elections Given Failure to Implement Peace Agreement, Human Rights Activist Tells Security Council, 7 March 2022, https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14821.doc.htm
213 UNSC, SC/14830, Security Council Extends Mandate of United Nations Mission in South Sudan, Adopting Resolution 2625 (2022) by 13 Votes in Favour, 2 Abstentions, 15 March 2022, https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14830.doc.htm
214 UNMISS, Top UN Envoy in South Sudan stresses need for Parties to respect the Revitalized Peace Agreement, 24 March 2022, https://unmiss.unmissions.org/top-un-envoy-south-sudan-stresses-need- parties-respect-revitalized-peace-agreement
215 Sudans post, “US Biden renews national emergency on South Sudan,” 30 March 2022, https://www.sudanspost.com/us-biden-renews-national-emergency-on-south-sudan/
216 All Africa, “South Sudan: ‘Troika’ Says South Sudan’s Clashes Could Spread Violence,” 25 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203280156.html