South Sudan: What to do

US sends envoy to South Sudan and the African Union called for truce. But do the outside powers have any leverages on the actors of the current conflict or perhaps not very much, and why? In general, what could be done to find a political solution? Read few comments.

David ShinnAdjunct Professor of International Affairs, The George Washington University, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and to Burkina Faso

Collectively, the international community—African Union, UN, US, EU, China, India, Malaysia, World Bank and others—do have leverage over South Sudan. Together they are responsible for all aid that goes to South Sudan and they buy all of its oil—98 percent of South Sudan’s income. But they have more leverage with the SPLM government in power than with dissident groups. That is a problem. If they presented a common front to both the Salva Kiir government and those groups opposing the government, I think they could make a difference and even force a cease fire. The alternative may be a bloody and long-lasting war that would be the worst possible outcome for South Sudanese and everyone else. As usual, all sides to the conflict must approach a solution with the understanding there will be compromises.

Eric ReevesProfessor of English Language and Literature, Sudan researcher and analyst, Smith College

Salva, by already agreeing to “unconditional talks,” has done all that he can do—for the moment we have to leave aside events of the past week and stop the violence, and he recognizes that implicitly with his willingness to negotiation with Riek. The US in particular has leverage with Juba, but both the AU and the US have been less than fully helpful over the past three years, and have too often acceded to Khartoum’s wishes in negotiations. In short, there has been a growing accommodation of what virtually everyone concedes is a regime of génocidaires (on the question of genocide, there is simply no dissent from the view that what happened in the Nuba Mountains in the 1990s was genocide…leave aside Darfur, and what’s happening now in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

This has made Juba deeply suspicious of motives, and lessened diplomatic leverage accordingly. And over Riek, I’m not sure who has leverage. Not sure what his plan is, but he can’t possibly seize South Sudan militarily, and politically the presidency has never been a possibility. His plan may be to form an alliance with Khartoum to seize Unity State and the oil infrastructure and reserves that are there: this would serve both their purposes, and is a painfully real possibilities.

Zachariah MampillyAssistant Professor, Departments of Political Science,International Studies & Africana Studies, Vassar College

The international community has had very little leverage so far in stymieing the country’s descent into violence. This crisis has been germinating for some time and is related to the broader crisis of governance that the country has been facing since independence. The country needed a visionary (if not messianic) leader to steer the ship in its first years, but the government has been handicapped by the financial crisis triggered by the ongoing tensions with Khartoum as well as its own corruption and nepotism, and the long standing ethnic tensions that have always characterized its politics. The solution will have to come from within South Sudan. The government has long been a tenuous coalition of ethnic elites but that coalition has fractured and will require a significant political initiative to repair. Unfortunately, Kiir and Riek Machar, the leader of the Nuer, seem willing to escalate militarily rather than engaging in serious political negotiations. The situation is indeed bleak and an outright war is perhaps inevitable.


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