Key Findings: Sudan and South Sudan

In 2013, a new war began in South Sudan. Peace efforts the following thirteen months culminated in the Agreement of Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) between government and armed opposition signed in August 2015.

Many uncertainties surrounded the implementation of the 2015 agreement, and the initial power-sharing government collapsed in 2016. Following this, the Revitalising Agreement on Resolving the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was signed in 2018, under which a power sharing agreement was implemented in early 2020 (Pospisil et al, 2020).

The 2013 war is the third in South Sudan’s short post-colonial history. PSRP research on Sudan and South Sudan focus largely on what lessons can be drawn from earlier conflicts and agreements and how an inclusive and stable political settlements can be found.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that any solution to the on-going civil war in South Sudan will be different to those solutions fostered by previous peace agreements, as the current civil-war is now concerned with issues of nationhood within the independent nation of South Sudan (Akec et al, 2015). There is, however, no clear-cut perception among competitors for power at the national level how nationhood should look like (Pospisil, 2021, forthcoming).

Leading up to the 2013 conflict, Sudan (today Sudan and South Sudan) had seen three main peace agreements and interlinked conflicts and peace process (for full set of peace agreements see the PA-X Peace Agreements database in list form and timeline form):
– 1972 Addis Ababa agreement, which brought the first civil war in the south to an end;
– the Wunlit Conference of 1999, which opened the way for reconciliation of the two faction of the SPLA;
– the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ushered in the process leading to an independent South Sudan in 2011.

Bello-Schünemann (2019) argues the Comprehensive Peace Agreement did little to incentivize fundamental changes to Sudan’s political order and to address the root causes of Sudan’s complex conflict landscapes, instead reinforcing a pattern of political violence.

This trait that was largely repeated in the ARCSS agreement, which, through setting up for ‘winner-takes-all’ elections, reinforced political order based on violent competition for power and resources (Bello-Schünemann, 2019).

Whilst the peace agreements have eased top-level conflict, PSRP research finds that sustained peace needs to address the totality of conflict dynamics at work, including the multi-layered conflict environment and the structural drivers of violence (Bello-Schünemann, 2019; Pospisil et al, 2020).

In particular, Pospisil et al (2020) argue it is necessary to have an understanding of how armed conflict has proliferated and diversified far beyond the fault lines apparent in national politics, disputes among elites obscuring more localized violence often caused by marginalisation, intercommunal grievances, competition over resources and conflict between cattle-keepers and farmers, in order to understand the conflict management and deal making needed to create stability.

In South Sudan, as independence is no longer a uniting issue, local disputes and disagreements has resurfaced (Akec et al, 2015).

An understanding of how subnational conflicts relate to the broader conflict, and how issues of exclusion and inclusion stands at the heart of these conflicts, requires an understanding of how the citizens of South Sudan perceive the peace process and the politics of the transition. The voices of the people need to be heard in the negotiations (Pospisil et al, 2020; Akec et al, 2015).

In Sudan, long-term military ruler Bashir and the NCP fell in 2019 after months of peaceful but persistent popular protest. With Sudan facing a ‘twin transition’ from both armed conflict and authoritarianism, comparative cases suggest that the level of success of the transition is closely tied to the level of consensus on the need to replace the old regime (Pospisil, 2019).

Additionally, Pospisil (2019) finds that international actors should focus on how, for successful elections to take place, there is a need for a stable interim government, a plan for including armed actors in a political process, and a credible constitutional reform

The way in which exclusion has perpetuated existing grievances and led to violence in Sudan and South Sudan underlines the need for peace and dialogue to carefully consider the trade-offs of who is included and who is excluded from talks in both countries (Bello-Schünemann, 2019).

The multi-layered conflict environment in Sudan and South Sudan has seen extremely high use of violence against civilians as peace processes have broken down. Peace agreements and subsequent implementation efforts must ensure the protection of civilians, including from state forces (Bello-Schünemann, 2019; Akec et al 2015).

In addition to the challenges of internal conflict, Sudan and South Sudan face regional instability tied up to the Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the interlinked conflict with Egypt. PSRP research highlight the way in which region-wide approaches which incorporate human needs considerations have worked well in similar disputes in other regions by establishing mechanisms for cooperation which have often continued despite public interstate disagreement (Funnemark, 2020).

Akec, J. et. al. We Have Lived Too Long To Be Deceived: South Sudanese Discuss the Lessons of Historic Peace Agreements (Juba University Lectures 2014), 2015

This publication is based on papers presented over three evenings of lectures at Juba University and transcripts of the discussions that ensued. The lectures attracted an audience of several hundred students and members of the public. The speakers included Oliver Albino, one of the last surviving negotiators of the Addis Ababa Agreement, Dr Lam Akol, Chairman of the SPLM-DC (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Democratic Change) and Emeritus Bishop Paride Taban.

Bello Schünemann, J. Sudan and South Sudan: Violence Trajectories after Peace Agreements (ISS PSRP report),  2019

This report asks whether peace agreements resolve, reshape or perpetuate existing patterns of violence. Peace agreements can be turning points in complex transitions from war to peace. But they don’t necessarily lead to greater stability, let alone peace. This report explores trajectories of violence in Sudan and South Sudan after the signature of peace agreements. It traces violence trajectories and explores whether these peace agreements resolved, reshaped or perpetuated existing patterns of violence.

Funnemark, A. Water Resources and Inter-state Conflict: Legal Principles and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) (PSRP report: Climate & Natural Resources Series, Economic Series)

This report draws together the key principles of international law applicable to transboundary watercourse disputes regarding quantity of water, and assesses the extent to which these principles provide guidance in negotiating the Egypt-Ethiopia watercourse conflict.


Pospisil, J. Sudan’s Enduring Transition: Evolving Arrangements after the Fall of Bashir (PA-X Report, Spotlight Series), 2019

The PA-X Spotlight Series addresses questions regarding comparative peace processes, asked by those seeking to influence peace and transition processes. Each Spotlight provides brief comparative material regarding a key issue, sometimes with reference to the specific context from which the question originated, and sometimes framed more generally.

Pospisil, J. et al. South Sudan’s Transition: Citizen’s Perception of Peace, 2020

A power-sharing government set up last month in South Sudan is fueling hope for an end to civil war, but layers of conflict remain. By Jan Pospisil, Oringa Christopher, Sophia Dawkins, and David Deng.

Pospisil, J., Konfliktlandschaften des Südsudan: Fragmente eines Staates. Transcript, 2021 (German monograph); South Sudanese conflictscapes. Rift Valley Institute, 2021 (in production, English translation).

This paper is forthcoming. A link will be added in due course.

See also: South Sudan: The Politics of Delay by the Conflict Research Programme.

This memo was jointly produced by the Conflict Research Programme (CRP) at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP) at the University of Edinburgh.

The memo argues that recurrent postponement of a definitive political settlement in South Sudan is a characteristic of a turbulent political marketplace, and that it serves the interests of political actors (stronger and weaker conflict parties have different calculations), but also can potentially be leveraged by civil society. International partners should explore how best to utilize the political opportunities arising from recurrent delay and non-settlement of definitive political issues to support civic agendas.

PA-X Peace Agreements Database

For South Sudan peace agreements, see the PA-X Peace Agreements Database. View all agreements in list form and timeline form.

For all local agreements in South Sudan, see the PA-X Local Peace Agreements Database. View all local agreements in list form and timeline form.