The Globe and Mail

Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Nhail Deng Nhail, 2nd left, the head of South Sudan's negotiating team, and top negotiator for the rebel's side, Taban Deng Gai, right, a general in South Sudan's army before he defected, sign a cessation of hostilities agreement in front of mediator Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, center, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. South Sudan's government and rebels fighting against it have signed Thursday a cessation of hostilities agreement in Addis Ababa that should at the least put a pause to five weeks of warfare that has claimed thousands of lives and uprooted a half million people since fighting began Dec. 15 between the government and supporters of former Vice President Riek Machar.
Nhail Deng Nhail, 2nd left, the head of South Sudan's negotiating team, and top negotiator for the rebel's side, Taban Deng Gai, right, a general in South Sudan's army before he defected, sign a cessation of hostilities agreement in front of mediator Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, center, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. South Sudan's government and rebels fighting against it have signed Thursday a cessation of hostilities agreement in Addis Ababa that should at the least put a pause to five weeks of warfare that has claimed thousands of lives and uprooted a half million people since fighting began Dec. 15 between the government and supporters of former Vice President Riek Machar.
(Elias Asmare/AP)

Joseph Pickerill

South Sudan’s fighting isn’t like ‘all the other’ crises in sub-Saharan Africa

The crisis in South Sudan should not be a surprise to anyone but that does not make it like ‘all’ the other crises in sub-Saharan Africa.

Most of the reporting suggests this is all about a power struggle in a weak state with the army splitting apart into rebels and government-led troops, something we’ve seen time again in places like the Congo, Rwanda and the Ivory Coast. In the case of South Sudan, this isn’t entirely accurate and the reporting does not reflect the nuances at play. This is not a case of a purge from government of competing interests nor is it a feud that has ultimately come to take on the exacerbating effects of tribal undertones. This is a long-standing tribal feud masked by a so-called struggle for power and all in a state that has yet to celebrate its third birthday. Meanwhile, after weeks of stalled talks in Addis Ababa, both government and rebel forces over the weekend accused each other of violating a tentative cease-fire reached on Thursday, January 23. The majority of the effort during talks was on pressuring President Salva Kiir to meet a certain amount of rebel demands, including the release of 11 detainees – top former government leaders – held by the government. Mr. Kiir has said the 11 will be subjected to South Sudan’s judicial process. It is clear now that the solutions offered in Addis Ababa invariably resorted to type and this will only undermine, rather than help, South Sudan.