South Sudan Ahead After Machar’s Return, A Mediation Effort Of IGAD


After three decades of civil war with Khartoum, South Sudan came to exist as the world newest nation-state in June 2011. Unfortunately, a year after its independence, it found itself in a state of ethnic-based, devastating civil war. Riek Machar, Vice President at the time, was fired by Salva Kiir in July 2013. Three months later, on December 15, 2013, intra-state war broke out in the land of the world’s youngest state and lasted for almost two years and five months until April 2016. One of Africa’s bloodiest wars erupted when Riek Machar returned to the forest as a rebel fighter as he was being “accused of trying to overthrow Salva Kiir, the president,” but he denied it. Both warring parties instrumentally mobilized their respective ethnic groups, though the conflict is not only ethnic based; Kiir’s largest ethnic group, Dinka covered 36% faced Machar’s second largest ethnic group, Nuer, which makes up 16% of the country’s population. The lives of over 50, 000 people claim to have been lost and another 2.3 million were forced to flee, either as IDPs or refugees, because of the war. Thanks to the regional IGAD (Inter-Government Authority on Development) led mediation effort, the hope for peace can now arise while the rebel leader Machar returned to Juba.

Behind the ongoing peace deal in South Sudan, the regional actor IGAD is playing a relentless role as the leading mediator of the regional and international efforts for peace in the country. This East African sub-regional organization, with the constituting member states of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and South Sudan, engaged in tireless mediation and their efforts were quick in reaction as they started work within a month after the armed conflict erupted. Since then, more than eight IGAD-led peace deals were concluded, though most of them are ineffective in culminating the war.  By the mediation efforts of IGAD, key peace agreements like the 23rd January 2014 Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) Agreement, the 9th May 2014 Agreement to Resolve the Crisis in South Sudan, the 1st February 2015 Areas of Agreement on the Establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity in the Republic of South Sudan, and the 17th August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, have been concluded by the warring parties.


Amongst all of these agreements, the August agreement, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan is seemingly the most effective, which may lead the hostile parties towards the restoration of a unity government if they apprehend with what they signed.  The agreement is the result of the 20-month negotiation effort of IGAD-PULS (IGAD together with various international actors coming from all corners of the world, such as the Troika (USA, UK and Norway), China, AU, and other African states). It has already signed and its implementation has begun by the warring parties, with a greater pressure coming from international communities. A permanent ceasefire within 72 hours of the implementation of the agreement over three years (2015-2018) is the binding impact of the peace deal. After months of mistrust and clash in violating this agreement, positive developments are already being observed towards the implementation of this agreement, with relation to Machar’s return to his previous position of first Vice President since April 26th, 2016. Now, as a first significant step toward peace, a new transitional government has been formed and it consists of cabinet ministers from both hostile groups; out of the total 30 new Kiir ministers, 10 of them were chosen by the rebel leader-turned-Vice President, and other oppositions groups. This is credited to the successful peace process facilitation role of IGAD together with other regional and international actors, including various western states (IGAD-PLUS).


Nonetheless, analysis continues as doubts are expressed as to whether the newly established government in Juba may move the country forward since there is a deep mistrust and power struggle between Kiir and Machar, and their support. Hence, these two men need to first reconcile with their supporters to bring South Sudan towards lasting peace.

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