In 2011, South Sudan earned the title of the world’s youngest State after a breakaway from Sudan. The independence was however short-lived, after another war broke out in 2013 that pitted the country’s President and his deputy. This disagreement spread along ethnic lines, resulting in a duel between the Dinka who backed President Salva Kiir and the Nuer who support Riek Machar.
The UNHCR estimates that over two million South Sudanese are refugees. Uganda hosts the biggest number of the refugees at 38.9%, Sudan 36.5%, Ethiopia 15%, Kenya 5% and the Democratic Republic of Congo 4%. The global conflict tracker statistics point to nearly 400,000 deaths since 2013.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was mandated to oversee the restoration of peace in South Sudan. The international norms recognize the principal of subsidiarity, gives IGAD comparative advantage over other international actors in the mediation process. The principle affirms that priority should be given to regional organizations through devolution of functions on handling conflicts. The African Union Peace and Security Commission protocols have also provided for the actualization of the subsidiarity principle in its article 16.
The article stresses the importance of harmonization and coordination with regional blocks because of the comparative advantage. These provisions therefore gave IGAD the important role of overseeing the peace process but with support from the United Nations agencies, African Union. Other states that had key interests in peacebuilding for South Sudan including US, China, Italy, Canada and several others have combined efforts under the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF). The resulting approach was later coded IGAD-PLUS. This approach, gave IGAD an international dynamic and the State power that can enforce the sanctions in the peace process.
IGAD has however experienced many challenges in brokering peace. One challenge has been the lack of political will by States in enforcing some actions recommendations and, overlapping of peace processes. There have been efforts by African Union Heads of State, and countries like Tanzania, China and Uganda’s interventions that are viewed as turning the whole negotiation into a complex web of individual and collective interest. Uganda had deployed its military to support the government and it is declining to withdraw despite receiving requests from IGAD. It is an obstacle to the negotiations, from Machar-led side.