On January 23rd, the rebels of South Sudan and the government signed a ceasefire that ended what many were calling a civil war. Recent fighting in Malakal has undermined the efforts of the international community to bring this conflict to an immediate end. What we can expect to see is either more violence between the two groups or renegotiations. The rebels are keen on 1. the unconditional release of political prisoners held Juba and 2. Opting for the general reform of what used the SPLA, of which many of them were a part. The government wants stability, which can be achieved by ending these minor outbreaks of violence, while subordinating an entire ethnic group and other minorities across the land. With differing interests, these factions might be at odds for the foreseeable future.
There are primarily three different groups of actors at play in South Sudan. These include the government, the rebels, and the International community, which is comprised of neighboring countries like Uganda and stretch out as far as the United States. International pressure has basically failed which shifts our attention to other means by which the rebels and the government can come to an agreement. In seeking other viable solutions, the question to be asked is whether the government of South Sudan, with its current structure and leaders, can perform their functions properly if rebel forces were not a part of the calculus? I believe the answer to this is absolutely not. This leads us to elements of governance that go beyond the current conflict like capacity and scope.
In the very near future, without a ceasefire, what we can expect to see are more small-scale conflicts of this sort until one of two things happen. First the government could successfully use force with the support of other nations because they have legitimacy and secondly the government could form a single common identity, which would be more effective in the long run. It is very clear that the nature of this conflict requires among many things a sense of nationalism in order to end it. What remains a good sign for the country is that the two sides, to a certain extent, are willing to sit down and negotiate their terms. The nature of a lasting compromise for South Sudan is that both sides will have to lose in order for both to win. There have been many examples of nations throughout history in which the formation of a national identity have successfully trumped intra-state conflict and afterwards brought about periods of economic prosperity. The clearest thing is this: The conflict must end before the state can be built on a strong institutional foundation.