Members' Research Service By / November 12, 2014

South Sudan: conflict and humanitarian situation

Written by Eric Pichon [last update : 02/02/2016] Two years ago, a violent civil war broke out in South Sudan,…

Steve Evans, 2011 (Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2-0)
South Sudan: conflict and humanitarian situation
Steve Evans, 2011 (Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2-0)

Written by Eric Pichon

[last update : 02/02/2016] Two years ago, a violent civil war broke out in South Sudan, it was caused by a number of entangled factors, that can be boiled down to a struggle for power and oil in a devastated country. Appeasement of rivalries between the main two leaders of independence, Salva Kiir Mayardit and Riek Machar soon fizzled out. In July 2013, President Kiir dismissed Vice-President Machar. The following December, an ethnic-based conflict erupted in the army, and tragically spread to the whole population – leading to a humanitarian catastrophe. More than 1.6 million people have so far fled their homes as a result. Fighting has prevented farmers from planting crops, and flooding has affected areas where people have sought refuge – making epidemics and food shortages unavoidable. NGOs and international institutions do their utmost to heal and feed the displaced, but as long as the population feels unsafe to return home, humanitarian aid is insufficient to prevent humanitarian disaster. A peace agreement was reluctantly signed by the government and opposition forces on 26 August 2015, but there is still much to be done to end the security and humanitarian crisis.

European Parliament Publications

Eric Pichon. Peace agreement in South Sudan: Ambitious but hard to deliver. European Parliamentary Research Service, Briefing, 2/02/2016, 8p.

In August 2015, under considerable international pressure, a peace agreement was signed in South Sudan: it aimed to end the violent civil war that had broken out two years earlier. Nevertheless, progress towards implementation of the peace deal is slow: key structures such as the transitional government and the ‘hybrid’ court have not yet been put in place. Building confidence between the current head of state and his main opponent is a challenging task for international mediators.

Manuel Manrique; Marion Excoffier. South Sudan: The Roots and Prospects of a Multifaceted Crisis. European Parliament, DG EXPO, Briefing, 5/03/2014, 13 p.

This briefing examines the role of the EU and UN both in their humanitarian and peacebuilding dimensions. It assesses the possibilities for South Sudan to become a viable state.


Tongun Lo Loyuong. Why Are the Dinka and Nuer Killing Each Other in South Sudan? South Sudan News Agency, 24/01/2014.

Conflicts over scarce resources have long been part of social life, but their scale and circumstances have dramatically changed in the last decades. Severe droughts and floods, added to unsustainable farming methods have intensified the competition. Oil discovery in the late 70s was also a game changer.

Conflict Trends reports often give an update on South Sudan (e.g. in the December 2015 issue)

News from African media: AllAfrica South Sudan top headlines / Sud-Soudan à la une

Text of the Peace agreement, monitoring

Agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the republic of South Sudan. IGAD Intergovernmental Authority on Development, 17/08/2015, 75 p.

The peace deal was eventually signed by President Kiir on 26 August 2015.

The official page South Sudan peace process page of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development.

EU and UN positions on the situation in South Sudan

European Parliament Resolutions and initiatives

European External Action Service South Sudan and the EU

Council Conclusions on South Sudan 12 October 2015. The Council hails the peace agreement and calls on the signatories to respect the ceasefire.

UN actions and statements:

EU and UN humanitarian help

On the humanitarian situation

Detailed data and maps are provided by Reliefweb, a website by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Afffairs (OCHA)

Cf in particular:

On the UN action (and international NGOs’) action:

Humanitarian response  by UN OCHA. In particular: Latest situation reports, Funding.

About South-Sudanese refugees in other countries: data by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR)

EU humanitarian help

South Sudan. European Commission Humanitarian aid and Civil protection (ECHO)

ECHO also provides EDRIS, a search tool on the EU member states’ help.


On the conflict
Interim report of the Panel of Experts on South Sudan established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2206 (2015). 21/08/2015. UNSC United Nations Security Council.

In 2015, the UN panel of experts on South Sudan documented the presence of large amounts of sophisticated weapons on all sides.

The Human Security Baseline Assessment for Sudan and South Sudan (HSBA) publishes research papers on the security situation in both Sudans. Among which:

See also International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch analyses.

On the human rights situation:  a selection of important human rights reports is available on the European Country of origin Information Network webstite.

On the peace deal

Explaining S sudan peace agreement. Radio Tamazuj, 2015.

A series of fiches on the main points of the peace deal.

Peter Run. Why South Sudanese adversaries signed a peace deal that they do not want. The Conversation, 3/09/2015.

Andrew Green. Can South Sudan’s Leaders Get Peace Right the Second Time? WPR World Politics Review, 18/09/2015.

For the author, there are many obstacles to face before the deal is implemented, even if “instead of taking an inflexible position as they have before, both sides have expressed a willingness to negotiate their concerns with IGAD’s help”. Above all, the core problem of political corruption at state level is not addressed by the agreement.

Elise Keppler. Hope for Justice for South Sudan. Human Rights Watch, 28/08/2015.

This opinion – a follow up of HRW report: South Sudan: One Year Later Injustice Prevails, December 2014 – examines the justice provisions of the peace deal and their “chance to break a decades-long cycle of brutal abuses “.

Addressing human rights and security issues, role of the UNMISS

Jenna Stern. Establishing Safety and Security at Protection of Civilians Sites: Lessons from the UN Peakeeping Mission in South Sudan. Stimson (USA), Civilians in Conflict Policy Brief 2, 09/2015, 32 p.

As the UNMISS lacks of judicial authority, it is very difficult to struggle violence in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps it manages in South Sudan.

Aditi Gorur; Lisa Sharland. Revising the UN Peacekeeping Mandate in South Sudan. Stimson Center and Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 12/2015, 36 p.

This paper shows how the UN mission had to alter its mandate to focus on civilian protection and draws lessons from its actions during the conflict.


Jason Patikin. Displaced and hungry after South Sudan’s peace deal. Al Jazeera, 4/10/2015.

“Precarious peace agreement has failed to end fighting in South Sudan with fears of famine and disease outbreaks”.

Gregory Warner. When Do Food Shortages Become A Famine? NPR National Public Radio (USA), 27/08/2014.

Andrew Green. Agencies battle to stave off starvation in South Sudan’s civil war sanctuaries . The Guardian, 23/09/2014.

Rob Bailey. Famine Threatens South Sudan. Chatham House, 9/07/2014.

The author regrets that no lessons have been learnt from the experience of famine in Somalia (2011). According to the author, despite early warnings, the UN and media turn a blind eye to South Sudan’s food crisis.


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