‘Tumaini’ Peace Talks in Progress: Renewed Hopes On The Horizon?

On May 9, 2024, in Nairobi, a high-stakes peace negotiation process christened the ‘Tumaini’ Initiative to explore efforts to mediate an end to hostilities and instabilities of the Republic of South Sudan. President Salva Kiir, his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto, and former Kenya Army Commander Lazurus Sumbeiywo are leading the official mediation between the rebel factions and the Juba administration. In a statement released by the Presidency, Mr. Ruto affirmed that the mediation process is inclusive, domestic, and a model of the Pan-African policy of African Solutions to African Challenges.


It is highly regarded perception that the ongoing peace talks between the rebel factions and the government in South Sudan would be a new step toward ending the continuous delays in the country’s reconstruction. Lazarus Sumbeiywo, a peace negotiator from South Sudan, expressed optimism toward a comprehensive resolution for outstanding issues in ongoing mediation, provided all parties fulfill their obligations. The conversations were well received by Mike Hammer, the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Embassy in Kenya declared following the event that “the United States applauds Kenya’s commitment to regional stability and support for peace in South Sudan.”


Whereas experts including Professor Jan Pospisil concerned that the current peace talks are to gather international support for the upcoming election. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, states that several issues, such as resource conflicts, high unemployment, political rivalry, conflicts between communities, and the burden of refugees and returnees, would probably affect the upcoming South Sudan’s elections. He warned that unrest could break out during elections if they are not handled carefully, which would be catastrophic for the already unstable nation as well as the larger region. Here, the question arises whether this peace initiative is ‘walking on a tightrope’ or if it has the potential to bring about lasting peace.





Given that South Sudan’s first presidential elections are approaching; these peace discussions serve as a means of ‘transfer of power’ in the top-level negotiations rather than a locally conducive peace mechanism. The failure of former peace talks stems from its inability to include the ‘spoilers of peace’ from the armed local-level non-state actors led to the resurfacing of conflicts. The high volatility to relapse into conflict situations is prone to insufficient ground-level efforts in the peace process hindering long-term peace initiatives. To end the cycle of conflict and instabilities, there should be peace initiatives hand in hand with the high-level leadership talks and the local level conflict actors since the peace bridge is yet to be built.


Ever since the conflict between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces began in April 2023, the ongoing hostilities left 2.3 million internally displaced people of which 65% are children, the UN reported. According to Amnesty International’s Regional Director for South Sudan, Tigere Chagutah, disputes amongst the elite over control over resources and power stems from ethno-political rivalry. Previously, the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement initiated for the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) is a power-sharing arrangement with innovative elements, such as modifications to the constitution and institutional provisions. Notwithstanding flaws in its execution, has established a period of stability at the national level as continues to be the only realistic framework for achieving peace and stability in South Sudan, Jean-Pierre Lacroix observed.


The peace talk christened ‘Tumaini’ implying ‘hope’ in the Swahili language, is believed to bring peace and security to the region.  Since the Peace Talk is confined to top-brass leadership with fewer ground-level initiatives, the probability of conflict recurrence is highly predicted. Unless and until consociation between top-level and grassroots-level initiatives is done, the longevity of peace talks may end up like ‘walking on a tightrope’, susceptible to instabilities. Similarly, consociational power transfers should be given a high stack to overrule the instances of political violence as well.  For a durable peace, the voices of ground-level actors mainly armed non-state actors should be taken into consideration as the nature of conflicts is more locally driven and, is necessary to reconcile groups in the conflict zone areas since building confidence and trust mitigates peace in the long run.