Posted on Friday, 20 November 2015 11:00

South Sudan Country Profile 2015: The war drags on

By The Africa Report

altThe year 2015 looks to be one of continued instability in South Sudan.

There are few signs that the world's newest country will yet manage to pull itself out of the fratricidal conflict engendered by the fateful events of 15 December 2013. On that night President Salva Kiir's army turned its guns on supporters of former vice-president Riek Machar, who they accused of plotting a coup.

The resulting violence – in which the Dinka- dominated army pitted itself against mostly Nuer forces loyal to Riek – cost more than 10,000 lives across the country and drove more than 1.5 million people from their homes. In the process it created food insecurity that could affect up to 2.2 million people in 2015.

In late 2014, aid agencies were appealing for assistance. The UN – whose peacekeeping troops were powerless to stop the fighting – estimated that some $400m was needed to provide humanitarian assistance. The UN called off warnings of famine after harvest prospects improved in November.

Sanctions east and west

In a sign of the frustration felt by the international mediators, US envoy Donald Booth warned that his country was considering expanding sanctions against political and military officials on both sides, a measure he hoped could end the fighting and help the fitful peace talks in Addis Ababa.

China also halted its weapons sales to the government and promised to send its own peacekeeping troops.
The negotiations, hosted by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), continue to break down as the two factions accuse each other of breaching ceasefires.

It did not help that IGAD was seen as biased towards Salva – as evidenced by Uganda's strong military and political support for him.
The Juba government also accuses Riek of receiving aid from Sudan, adding another regional element to the crisis.


By November 2014, the two principals seemed close to reaching a power-sharing agreement by jointly heading a transitional government of national unity, but hope for that quickly faded. Riek's troops said that government forces violated a November ceasefire within hours of signing a new agreement.

Ethiopia's former foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin argued that the proposed deal would bring in a wider cross-section of society rather than just the polarised political class.

Reconciling ethnic groups, reconstructing the most affected areas and reintegrating tens of thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries will be the main governance challenges of 2015 and beyond.

Accountability will be crucial in a situation where the main warring factions have engaged in ethnically motivated killings, rape, looting and the destruction of property.

The government in Juba has also been accused of violating civil liberties and cracking down on the press. A major radio station that fosters democracy and free debate remained closed when The Africa Report went to press, and journalists expect censorship to continue as long as the war goes on.

Economy in tatters

Most of the fighting has taken place in the states of Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile, where the infrastructure now lies largely in ruins and most economic activity has been brought to a halt. The national chamber of commerce reported that the private sector sustained enormous losses in those states as well as in the capital, Juba.

Oil production has continued from the Paloch oilfields in Upper Nile but has declined overall to 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) from more than 200,000bpd in late 2013. Production in Unity came to a halt as Bentiu repeatedly changed hands between the government forces and the rebels in 2014.

The war has rendered most of the government's declared economic priorities meaningless and development programmes in most areas have been shelved.

A Russian-built refinery near Bentiu with capacity to refine 5,000bpd was damaged in April 2014 and some Russian engineers working on the project were killed.

In order to be able to import fuel and commodities to keep prices stable, the government took a revolving $250m line of credit with Qatar National Bank in September 2014.


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