Breakdown in South Sudan

What Went Wrong—and How to Fix It

A soldier in Malakal, 308 miles northeast of Juba, December 30, 2013. James Akena / Courtesy Reuters

The South Sudanese people made extraordinary sacrifices to achieve independence two and a half years ago. That makes their leaders’ abject failure to build a viable South Sudan since then all the more galling. Now, a political crisis imperils the nation. But there is a silver lining: The turmoil could give South Sudan the opportunity to reset the national agenda. The country’s leaders cannot afford to squander this moment, and their first task is a sober appraisal of what has gone so disastrously wrong. 


The current conflict has three main dimensions -- a political dispute within the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM); a regional and ethnic war; and a crisis within the army itself.

The political dispute is long-standing: Since before independence in July 2011, the SPLM leadership has been split several ways, including over whether to confront the government of Sudan in Khartoum or cooperate

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