South Sudan flag celebration and prayerRebuilding The Social Contract in South Sudan: Citizen and Solidarity Engagement for Peace in South Sudan

 Report of Engagement 2014-2015


The support to the peace process in Southern Sudan was implemented through three strategies that were aimed to put citizens at the centre of the Peace Agenda following the conflict that broke out between the government and key opposition leaders in December 2013.

It was intended to achieve four key objectives

  1. Provide an objective understanding of the conflict to the outside world, especially Regional and Global Civil Society, International Governments leading the Peace Process in South Sudan and the United Nations agencies that are responsible for a peace agenda in South Sudan.
  2. Support an intervention by South Sudanese Civil Society in the negotiations led by IGAD and the International Community, specifically the United Nations, Norway, China  and the United States
  3. Build an advocacy around a solidarity agenda and raising support from Regional and Global Civil Society.
  4. Initiate a citizen-driven engagement agenda to ensure citizen participation and engagement in the Peacebuilding process and the long term reconstruction of South Sudan.

Key activities and achievements

  1. Creating a Global advocacy based on understanding the Conflict beyond The Ethnic divides

The issue

Only one month into the Conflict ten Civil Society Organisations approached The Africa Platform to help support what they believed was an awareness gap among international actors on the causes of the conflict.

The conflict, according to the Civil Society Organizations, has its history in political and ethnic issues that have remained unresolved since 1955. According to the United Nations “For all but 11 of the 48 years since its independence in 1956, Sudan has been engulfed in civil conflict. The conflict between the North and the South erupted one year before Sudan gained its independence in 1955.” The Intergovernmental agencies and Governments that witnessed the Signing of the Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan (Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, US, EU, IGAD, UN and League of Arab States) had done so on the understanding that discussions on issues internal to the actors in South Sudan would be discussed and resolved as soon as South Sudan gained independence. But this has not happened to date. There was therefore a strong need to ensure that the conflict was discussed and resolved in its historical context, instead of looking at events that happened in the two months that preceded the conflict.  The 2011 There was a feeling that it was this lack of awareness and understanding that had resulted in the UN proposals for negotiations involving only two of the actors in the conflict- Former Vice President Riek Machar and the government of President Salvar Kiir.  This presented the conflict as an issue between two ethnic groups, ignoring concerns that date back to 1957 and which involves all the 64 ethnic groups.

The Response

The Africa Platform supported the first process that led to a comprehensive analysis of the conflict by Civil Society.

The Africa Platform supported the formation of neutral coalition of 11 CSOs from South Sudan to offer an objective response to the conflict by drawing attention to three things:

  1. Need to see the conflict through the broader lens of a failed State Building agenda and a poorly designed Collective Bargaining Agreement that was signed before independence.
  2. Need to de-ethnicize the conflict and unite society around the key historical concerns and root causes of the conflict.
  3. Need for a collective but objective engagement by the International Community as well as Regional CSOs to ensure adequate but sustained pressure on the key actors to the conflict.

The initiative, known as South Sudan Civil Society Coalition for Sustainable Peace made several progresses in addressing the conflict during the initial period.

They prepared and released a full and comprehensive analysis of the Conflict, drawing International attention to the root causes of the conflict and showing that the conflict has its history not in the events of December 15 2013, but in the broader issues that were left unresolved during the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement, and in the period preceding the historic elections.

Between May and December 2014 the analysis, under the coalition of South Sudan Civil Society for Sustainable Peace, became a key advocacy tool for the peace process, especially the negotiations that were taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was made available to the Chief Negotiator Lazarus Sumbeiywo as well as all the other members from IGAD and the TROIKA group (United States of America, United Kingdom and Norway) and UN. Between June and December, Oxfam office in Addis Ababa worked with the team to ensure feedback and communalisation between the Civil Society and the Negotiators, as well as other Civil Society Organizations.

The document became the main Key Civil Society Documents throughout the negotiation process, allowing actors to the conflict to consider the broader issues that related to land, power sharing, especially among the over 60 smaller ethnic groups, political control over the states, the constitution reforms, natural resource sharing and the need to develop sections of the economy that were the main sources of survival for the mainly agricultural and nomadic communities.

The report was further presented to the United States Government, the European Union and Norway, during meetings of International Dialogue on Peace Building and StateBuilding (IDPS). The IDPS is an intergovernmental Platform of Donors and Conflict affected countries The Africa Platform has been a civil society representative to the Platform since 2011.South Sudan is a signatory and founding member of the IDPS as well as the New Deal for Engagement on the g7+ group of states. The g7+ group of conflict affected states, which is the Southern arm of the IDPS, used the report to engage with the Government of South Sudan during its 2014 Ministerial meetings in Togo and Dubai.

In 2015 the Report was used again during the IDPS meeting on the sidelines of the Annual Meeting of the Africa Development Bank in Ivory Coast. Civil Society was represented at this meeting by among others a member of the South Sudan Coalition for Sustainable Peace.

 Key Outcome

 The analysis and the advocacy agenda that was based on the analysis was instrumental in achieving three main outcomes:

  1. The negotiations that begun as an issue related to the immediate causes of the conflict was expanded to include key issues that would have been left out. Key among them was the need to renew the constitution making process and discussions on the main issues of the 2004 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that have been pending for over twelve years.
  2. The IDPS had no knowledge of the context and history of the conflict. The analysis and advocacy with the IDPS was especially helpful to the g7+ group of conflict affected states, especially the Co-Chairs (East Timor) and the g7+ secretariat (East Timor).
  3. The TROIKA, all of whom were part of the witnesses to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, were forced to include issues that they had previously insisted did not form part of the negotiations.
  4. Civil Society members of the South Sudan Platform for Sustainable Peace, were able to support government negotiators to the conflict during the IGAD-led mediation process between 2014 and 2015
  1. Engaging Citizens, Rebuilding Trust

Following the breakdown of talks in 2014, the Civil Society in South Sudan resolved to form a broader coalition to become more proactive and engaged at all levels. They also resolved to mobilize and ensure an active citizens engagement in both the peace process and the rebuilding process.

This led to the formation of the The Civil society Monthly forum, a monthly dialogue platform for purposes of generating action oriented ideas and recommendation around a set of issues affecting citizens in South Sudan. The forum was also designed to better equip civil society as a sector or individual organizations with more facts regarding a particular situation and inform CSO advocacy strategy and enhance network with other CSOs locally, regionally and internationally.

The support

In September 2015, The Africa Platform and Justice Africa, an International Peace  Organization based in Juba, South Sudan, hosted a joint training  for South Sudan Civil Society on citizen mobilization and activism. The training was in the form of a practical set of case studies from Civil Society leaders who were engaged in the 1990-2002 activism and citizen mobilization known as Kenya’s Second Liberation. They included women and men who led the liberation struggle and designed the citizen mobilization agenda that led to Multi-Party Democracy and later a New Constitution for Kenya. Over ten carefully selected group of Kenyan Liberation Movement Leaders engaged with key leaders from Civil Society in South Sudan.  The engagement also included Key religious leaders drawn mainly from the Catholic Faith in South Sudan.

Key Outcome

The engagement and peer support led to the formation of a core civil society team that is already working on a citizen’s engagement initiative based on a civic education curriculum borrowed from Kenya.

Uraia, The Kenya National Civic Education Program, has already committed to provide long term support to Civil Society in South Sudan until the end of the Transition process.

There are already initiatives to mobilize citizens from across the country to become more active both key Transition processes that will among other things lead to a new constitution.

The Civil Society in Kenya have committed to provide long term support to their peers from South Sudan.

The Civil Society Monthly dialogue is active and is composed of the following thematic groups thematic groups on Justice and Human Rights and Legislation and Good Governance

  1. Supporting Civil Society in the Negotiations

The Africa Platform sits in the Executive Committee of the Platform on Peacebuilding and StateBuilding (CSPPS), the Civil Society arm of the IDPS.

We used this influence to secure additional financial support from the CSPPS to help strengthen the Civil Society Coalition in the Negotiation process. With this additional support the Coalition was able to be present at the mediation efforts in Addis Ababa.  Some members of the Platform were appointed as part of the tripartite negotiation team under the leadership of IGAD. They were among the 19 CSO leaders who were officially accepted by IGAD and remained members of the mediation team until the negotiations ended in 2015.

The Africa Platform later travelled to Addis Ababa to offer support to the CSOs who were part of the mediation efforts. We held discussions with some of the negotiators from the SPLM-Opposition

We met and agreed on a support process for the Civil Society. One other Global CSO group, Society for International Development, committed to broker a discussion following emerging rifts among the 19 CSOs Details of the discussion are ongoing.

In order to address the increasing  division within CSOs in South Sudan-with many openly identifying with either government or opposition, the Africa Platform begun a parallel process of initiating private collaboration and relationship with over 20 CSOs, while maintaining relations with all actors in the conflict,. The Platform held meetings with CSOs involved in the negotiation process in Ethiopia, as well as with multiple parties to the conflict.

In order to strengthen the power of Civil Society at the negotiation table, The Africa Platform held meetings with members of the mediation teams, including United Nations, European Union, SPLM factions (SPLM former Detainees, SPLM in Opposition and SPLM Government).

  1. Solidarity agenda and support from Regional and Global Civil Society

Key Issues

Six months into the conflict civil society were faced with three main challenges:

  1. The mediation process, under IGAD, insisted on the engagement and involvement of civil society in the entire negotiation process. While this was a positive move, it did not consider the deep divisions that existed within Civil Society along the lines of the conflict as well as ethnic lines. It also left the decision to the actors to the conflict. In the end each of the four main parties to the conflict (SPLM Government, SPLM in Opposition, SPLM Diaspora, and SPLM Former Detainees) invited only a section of Civil Society that favoured their individual positions. This led to a polarization in civil society that had never been witnessed before.
  2. The government begun to target individual activists and civil society leaders foe elimination, especially those who were critical to the positions held by the government.
  3. It was also becoming increasingly clear that what was seen as a local conflict in South Sudan was beginning to spill over to the neighbouring countries, especially Kenya, Uganda, DRC, CAR and Uganda. It was therefore important that civil society was mobilized from across the Region.

The Intervention and Outcome

In order to address these two challenges, The Africa Platform begun to identify civil society networks and actors across the Region to offer solidarity and provide guidance and support to local civil society actors in South Sudan.  In May 2015 a team of ten civil society actors from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Cameroon took advantage of the Africa Union dialogue on Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda to hold a session with Civil Society from South Sudan who were involved in the Mediation process in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The objective was to help them build solidarity among themselves and not allow themselves to be aligned to the conflict. It was also intended to help them develop a common strategy for negotiations despite having been brought on board by different actors to the conflict.

The team spent time with the Civil Society engaged in the mediation who agreed to work together and act as one collective team. The support extended to the rest of the year.

The Africa Platform later mobilized the East Africa CSOs Forum (EACSOF), the umbrella Civil Society Network for East Africa CSOs, and begun a process of building multiple voices on behalf of the Citizens and Civil Society in South Sudan. This was targeted at raising issues considered sensitive by the government and which would have led to arrests and sometimes death of local civil society.  EACSOF was able to raise key issues through a series of public statements and press conferences aimed at putting pressure on the two main parties to the conflict, as well as the International community, led by the TROIKA.

Between July and August 2015 The Africa Platform sought the support of CRISIS Group, who had vast information on the negotiations at the highest level. This information was made available to the Civil Society Team involved in the negotiations in Addis Ababa. Support was also sought and received from the Oxfam Office at the Africa Union and other international organizations that had access to the mediation process.

These set of multiple support and solidarity was instrumental in enabling civil society to safely advocate for key issues in the mediation without putting the lives of local CSOs at risk.

The solidarity provided the much needed knowledge and support that was needed, especially by the civil society leaders leading the negotiations in Addis Ababa.

The capacity support and solidarity was also instrumental in ensuring that IGAD member countries remained engaged in the negotiations.

The support also enabled a wider knowledge of the context of the conflict by civil society outside of South Sudan, leading to more engagement across the region.

  1. Global Coalition to Support South Sudan

In order to put pressure on the mediation efforts of IGAD, TROIKA, United Nations and various SPLM factions, The Africa Platform sought and secured the support of leading global actors and governments as well as the United Nations.

In August discussions were held with the Elders, a Coalition of former Africa Statesmen who lead private negotiations in volatile conflict situations across the continent. It is chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Discussions were also held with the Kofi Annan Foundation.  The two discussions led to a commitment by both the Elders and the Kofi Annan Foundation to engage more actively in the negotiations, targeting the two main parties to the conflict-President Salvar Kiir and former Vice President and main opposition leader Riek Machar.

The Elders made a visit to South Sudan immediately after these discussions.

Additional commitment was secured from   Bineta Diop the Africa Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security.

In the same period discussions were held with the European ambassadors to the OECD. These discussions were intended to ensure the OECD countries supported the negotiations by the TROIKA and the United Nations. The OECD are also the key members of the International Dialogue, IDPS

Between September and October 2014 there was further engagement of the Centre for American Progress, under the Enough Project, as well as the United States Institute for Peace. Enough Project committed to step up its engagement in South Sudan, building from their Report on the conflict in the country. Institute for Peace committed to make available its online Peacebuilding training program to civil society organizations from South Sudan