South Sudan: The dilemma of a protracted social conflict

Timothy T. KULANG, Chidiebere C. OGBONNA


Abstract. This study examined the conflict in South Sudan, which started in December 2013 due to political dissatisfaction between President Salva Kiir and his then Vice President Riek Machar. When South Sudan got independence in 2011 through a referendum where more-than 98 percent of the population supported secession from Sudan, the country became a case study for potential secessions in Africa. However, the euphoria of independence quickly evaporated, and immediately replaced by violent conflict. Thus, the study explored the major causes of the conflict and concluded that political discontent resulting from power struggle among the elites fuelled the conflict. Furthermore, the study argues that citing ethnicity as the fundamental cause of the conflict is misleading and ill-conceived. Rather than being the catalyst of the conflict, the present conflict in South Sudan has rekindled ethnic identities and ideologies to a record height. The new wave of ethnic sentiment in South Sudan is as a result of irrational quest for political power and control among the top echelons in the country. Although ethnicity is not considered as the main cause of the conflict, however, given that the present situation has invigorated ethnic identities and sentiments in the country, the study concludes that any viable solution to the conflict must give incentives to fair ethnic and inter-ethnic representation and coalitions. 

Keywords. South Sudan, Power struggle, Ethnicity, Violence conflict, Peace-building.

JEL. A13, A14, A30.


South Sudan; Power struggle; Ethnicity; Violence conflict; Peace-building.

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