South Sudan

Lessons for IGAD Mediation Arising from the South Sudan Peace Talks 2013-2015

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This report focuses on the IGAD-led mediation process from December 2013 to August 2015 to address the conflict in South Sudan. As per a project initiated, led and owned by IGAD, it identifies lessons from the South Sudan peace talks with the aim to inform future IGAD mediation efforts. These lessons are based on interviews conducted by a team of researchers with mediators, advisers, parties and supporters as well as an analysis of internal IGAD documents concerning the South Sudan peace talks.

The report highlights the commitment of IGAD to peacemaking in South Sudan, stepping in within days of the outbreak of violence on 15 December 2013 in Juba, convening an extraordinary Summit and mandating a mediation process led by highly experienced envoys. IGAD’s resolute action helped to prevent further escalation of violence, kept the parties focused on negotiating a political settlement and produced a comprehensive peace agreement signed in August 2015.

However, the August 2015 agreement failed to bring peace to South Sudan. This is because the parties lacked genuine willingness to make peace. This condition indeed characterized the South Sudan peace talks throughout. The report cautions IGAD mediators not to rush the process of negotiations. In the interests of sustainable peace, there may be no alternative to strategic patience until the parties reach a sufficient degree of consensus and reconciliation.

When the talks reached a standstill in early 2015, IGAD mediators and partners applied leverage, pushing the parties to sign an agreement. This included increased diplomatic pressure, the imposition of targeted sanctions, the threat of an arms embargo and a directive mediation strategy presenting parties with an agreement on a take it or leave it basis. While this strategy produced an agreement, it undermined the parties’ ownership of the agreement, without which sustainable peace is not possible.