South Sudan: Rearranging the Chessboard

Fighting in Juba in July ended efforts that had brought President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar together in a transitional government. Since then, Kiir has played a weak hand well, reconfiguring domestic and regional politics in his favour. Machar’s exile makes the president more amenable to certain compromises. The result has been calm in the capital, while national peace remains distant with much of the country under fragile local truces or in conflict. The government’s ability to balance its military and diplomatic advantages with peacemaking will determine whether conflict diminishes. Regional consensus to support it and isolate armed opposition groups presents a brief window when a strengthened Juba’s political calculations favour ending conflicts. Regional and wider international powers should seize the opportunity to push strongly for inclusive national dialogue and negotiations with rebel groups focused on politics (eg, governance arrangements), local security dynamics, the economy and communal relations rather than military-based solutions.

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