Managing the challenges of conflict transformation and peace-building in South Sudan.
Since its independence on July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan, with the assistance of various internal and external stakeholders, has been working towards viable and constructive political and socio-economic change in the new state. These processes of change are aimed at the effective development of South Sudan as a sovereign, peaceful and stable nation-state that is capable of serving the short- and long-term needs and expectations of its citizens and the environment at large. However, the successful realisation of this transformation is facing serious challenges. These challenges are partly attributable to the unresolved issues and consequences of South Sudan’s protracted years of civil war with Sudan, and the difficulties that often confront post-conflict societies, especially a post-independence state like South Sudan, which came into existence after two prolonged civil wars. Given the complexity of South Sudan’s post-independence environment, this study aims to gain a clearer understanding of South Sudan’s complex transformational and peace-building challenges as an independent state; and to propose recommendations on how they can be managed. This will be achieved through the use of historical and qualitative research methods, which locate the study within a framework that provides the basis for the analyses of the data collected on South Sudan and on the subjects of conflict transformation and peace-building. As South Sudan celebrated its one-year anniversary on July 9, 2012, it was recalled that the country’s official independence was regarded as a historic event for the African continent at large. While there were high expectations among the South Sudanese population and the international community that this signalled an end to Africa’s longest conflict, it was soon clouded by a myriad of political, economic, socio-cultural, peace, security and development challenges. These include building an entirely new state out of the ruins of war, confronting the unresolved resource and border demarcation conflicts with Sudan, and tackling South Sudan’s own internal ethnic confrontations, among many other human resources and capacity challenges. Given South Sudan’s challenging post-conflict and post-independence environment, this study contends that contrary to the notion that the resolution and transformation of the Sudan-South Sudan conflict and the birth of the new Republic of South Sudan ended the conflict between the two entities, the secession did not create a cohesive and robust new state that is free from serious internal and external challenges. The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) and external and internal stakeholders, including the African Union (AU); the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); the United Nations (UN); civil society organisations (CSOs) and various individual countries (among many other initiatives) have been and are actively engaged in joint efforts to address and manage the challenges that confront South Sudan as an independent state. However, such endeavours have mainly concentrated on state-building issues, resources and border demarcation conflicts, and have focused less on the problems of nation-building. As such, internal complexities such as social and national identity, the decentralisation of power/broader representation in government and state affairs and growing ethnic conflicts have continued to receive less attention. Bearing this in mind, this study argues that unless these internal matters are given serious consideration, sustainable peace and development in South Sudan will remain elusive. While negotiations to resolve the cross-border South Sudan-Sudan conflicts continue, a solution that is acceptable to all parties is only possible if all the conflicting parties are invited to the negotiation table to engage in peaceful dialogue and find the means to reconcile their differences and build trustworthy and mutually beneficial relationships. The study also identifies a need for the promotion and coordination of a constructive relationship between the South Sudanese state and civil society. It further recognises the importance of building inclusive political processes to facilitate a state-society cooperative environment, and the development of state capacity to perform its duties in a manner that satisfies the expectations of the population that they will enjoy the fruits of their long-drawn out struggle for independence. In terms of how these processes can be achieved, the study recommends an indigenous intervention mechanism that encourages the active engagement of the entire post-conflict society in its own peace-building and development initiatives. This mechanism is encapsulated in John Paul Lederach’s Pyramid Model of conflict transformation, which emphasises the importance of coordinating peace-building activities between and among the various leadership levels – the top, middle and grassroots leaders of the post-conflict society. This model also advocates that the local community be encouraged to develop and drive its own peace-building and development activities, which is a major step forward in reconciling differences, building a sense of belonging, trust, mutual respect and ultimately societal cohesion. These are very important considerations for any society or state with the long-term goal of sustainable peace and development. The research study thus recommends this model for managing South Sudan’s challenges. It urges all stakeholders to promote the involvement of the local community in peace-building and development activities and to facilitate peaceful dialogue and reconciliation within South Sudan and with Sudan in order to achieve viable peace and development in the longer term.