S. Sudan think tank warns against exclusion of rival leaders

August 5, 2014 (JUBA) – Any transitional government formed without the involving South Sudan’s two rival leaders may not easily be sustainable, the Sudd Institute, a local think tank has warned.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (L) and rebel leader Riek Machar sign a cessation of hostilities agreement in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

“The international community may be tempted to join the call for the exclusion of both President [Salva] Kiir and Riek Machar from a transitional government. This is indeed an enticing proposition since both leaders are seen to be the cause of the current crisis. However, this is actually a trap that the international community should steer away from”, partly reads the Sudd Institute’s 19-page report.

“The proposition is impractical because these leaders hold the key to permanent peace in South Sudan because they have got the constituencies”, it adds.

The group warns of possible outbreak of violence similar to what caused last year’s outbreak of chaos, saying both president Kiir and rebel leader Machar are very prominent leaders in their respective constituencies.

“For example, if President Kiir is excluded from power and he does not support that arrangement, his men in the army will definitely threaten any new government. Anything that removes President Kiir from power will be interpreted as a defeat; hence his supporters will not accept it, especially if President Kiir is unhappy with such arrangement. The same is true for Riek Machar. Anything that excludes them from power is a no deal”, the report stipulates.

Both leaders, it argued, command considerable following among the communities of Dinka and Nuer, two of the country’s largest tribes and that this was basically the reason why the current conflict is largely seen as a Dinka versus Nuer affair.

“The most practical approach to ending the war is a transitional government of which both President Kiir and Riek Machar are part, along with other important stakeholders, including the former detainees,” the report stressed.

The think tank also likened South Sudan’s current conflict to the Kenyan situation and that it would develop into the Kikuyu-Luo political scenario, it not properly handed.

“If not handled well, the development of an ethnic-based politics akin to what Kenya has whereby the Kikuyu, the majority tribe, makes sure that a Luo person, from the third largest ethnic community, does not come to power,” says the institute’s report.

“If this situation was to happen in South Sudan, it would be extremely difficult to achieve peace and stability”, it adds.

According to the renowned think tank, a transitional government where the leaders would share power without considerable reform agenda will not bring a durable solution to the ongoing conflict.

It further says the international community, through a coalition with Europe, should support an agreement that incorporates grand transformation agenda in a manner that benefits the average South Sudanese.

“Any power sharing agreement can be a win–win mechanism for the citizens and the politicians if such an agreement includes an elaborate reform agenda including a broad based new constitution and social development”, the group stressed in its report.


The group further argued against imposition of sanction as one of the alternative option seen in the regional and international political and diplomatic arena to put bearing pressure on the rival warring parties to make them accept peaceful dialogue option.

“We recommend a constructive diplomatic engagement instead of antagonistic or coercive diplomacy. This includes ceasing any unhelpful media campaign against either the government or the rebels”, the group said.

A constructive diplomacy, it added, means that the international community should drop its pursuit of sanctions against South Sudan or individuals within the government of South Sudan and the rebels because sanctions tend to antagonize.

Thousands have died and over a million displaced since violence broke out in Juba, before it later spread to South Sudan’s Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states.