South Sudan’s Troubled Peace

How the Peace Deal Got Stuck

A Sudan People's Liberation Army soldier, July 5, 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

South Sudan’s civil war officially ended on August 26, 2015, when the two sides signed a sweeping peace agreement that set out the framework for building a transitional unity government. But since then, the warring parties have neglected deadlines, broken cease-fires, and been accused of human rights abuses. The civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, accused his former Vice President Riek Machar, from the Nuer ethnic group, whom he had fired a few months before, of conspiring to stage a coup. Machar denied the accusation. Kiir then demanded the disarming of all the Nuer soldiers within the presidential guard. A fight erupted among the officers, which quickly plunged the country into a bloody ethnic war. Now Kiir and Machar, who is technically the vice president again, are responsible for rolling out the peace deal. They have instead spent the last seven months mired in political games.

The first phase of forming the new transitional government involved building an integrated security force—made up of roughly half of Kiir’s army and half of Machar’s rebel fighters, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. But the two failed to meet a January 22 deadline to launch the initial phase and Machar has yet to return to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The reason for the delay is a dispute over a redistricting law that Kiir had passed in December 2015, which carved South Sudan into 28 regional states from its original ten. Kiir had claimed that this new law would disperse power in Juba to other parts of the country and provide the basis of a federal system of governance. But Machar argued that the law fundamentally changed the provisions for power sharing in the peace agreement, and in protest, refused to incorporate his troops. At this point, Kiir says, rescinding the law is impossible since he has already appointed governors for the new states. Machar, however, insists that Kiir should suspend the law once the two

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