South Sudan Has Failed to Justify Its Existence

Rebel leader Riek Machar

Rebel leader Riek Machar

Earlier in May, the South Sudanese government resumed its negotiations with the rebels. That very week, The Sudan Tribune reported that numerous civilians, who had sought shelter at a United Nations base in Bor, were killed by an unknown mob. Also, trainee soldiers were shot in Mapel, and several other civilians were killed in Bentiu, allegedly by the rebels.

The international media, on the other hand, either refused to cover the crisis in South Sudan, or simply chose to highlight the fact that both sides are now negotiating with each other. Sadly, the negotiations seem to be headed nowhere, and chances of peace in South Sudan do not look good.

Difficult Times

The ongoing violence is ripping apart South Sudan’s cohesive nationhood. Human rights violations, especially against civilians, have become the norm. Take the case of Bor and Bentiu: non-combatants were actively targeted, based on ethnic lines. Of course, the commanders of both the army and the rebels insist that their troops acted only in self-defence, but the truth is evident.

As such, collateral damage keeps piling up. ReliefWeb International counts over a million people as internally displaced refugees, whereas Oxfam has noted acute food shortage for almost 70% of the South Sudanese populace.

Quite obviously, things keep getting from bad to worse in South Sudan.

Failed Negotiations

The negotiation summit in Addis Ababa seems to be headed nowhere. President Salva Kiir’s governance is under the scanner, and rebel leader Riek Machar too does not have a promising resume.

There have been two vague suggestions as well. First, an interim government should be formed with the help of a coalition led by both Machar and Kiir. Second, both the parties should be eliminated, and a separate body should be set up to lead South Sudan.

Both of the above suggestions have been discarded. The first one (coalition government) is unacceptable to both the parties, and the second one (political alternative) smells of nothing but political opportunism.

Considering the fact that neither party is willing to blink first, the negotiation talks are surely not reaching their destination anytime soon. Both the United States and the United Nations seem to have accepted the failed outcome of the negotiations, and are now contemplating the imposition of sanctions. As a matter of fact, on his recent visit to Ethiopia, US Secretary of State John Kerry talked a good deal about potential sanctions on both the government and rebels of South Sudan.


A regional peacekeeping force is expected to be sent into South Sudan. However, this route too is not without its share of problems. One constituent member of the peacekeeping force, Uganda, openly takes sides and backs the Salva Kiir government. More importantly, regional peacekeepers are, almost always, accused of furthering their own political and economic motives. A better option would be to retain the existing UN peacekeeping mission, but the South Sudanese government is not on good terms with the United Nations.

All said and done, the situation keeps getting from bad to worse in South Sudan. Since the negotiations have failed in maintaining ceasefire in the country, and civilians’ lives are at stake, international sanctions and military intervention seem to be the only way out. Either option is not without pitfalls and the future does not seem good for South Sudanese people.

South Sudan was created by forcibly partitioning Sudan. Today, the very existence of this new country is in jeopardy. Luckily, Sudan is still doing pretty well for itself and has managed to keep its house intact. South Sudan, on the other hand, has been unable to justify the balkanization of what was once Africa’s largest nation.

Bottom-line: South Sudan has ‘Failed State’ written all over it.

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+ or email him at

  • Ghol Chot

    Sufyan bi Uzayr,
    You arabs still hope that South Sudan will rejoin your evil is unthinkable in North Sudan. Even if the Dinkas and Nuers rip themselves apart; they don’t want to have anything to do with arabs, never ever again.

    Any white skin people always take advantage of black people and now the black people of Sudan want their status back. Arabs and Europeans will continue to play their claim of being more superior to black people, but in Sudan; we don’t those bulls**ts.

    The North Sudan arabs should make a better deal with the Furs people, for Southern Khordupan and Southern Blue Nile though, the arab North Sudan must let it decides whether to join South Sudan or be independence.

    Sudanese people are back. They want their peoples freed.

    • Sufyan bin Uzayr

      I would’ve loved reading your comment, had it not been for the opening phrase: “you arabs”.
      Wanna know a secret? I’m not an Arab. :)

      • Big Dee

        But you think like one…..if war categorises a country as a failed state, then Sudan is one of them, Do you forget Darfur, Blue Nile and North and South Kordofan, and even the disgruntled East sudan? We will sort our house in Junub, We better kill ourselves and be free than be killed in Millions and enslaved like Arabs did…….so whether you are an Arab or not….it is irrelevant here, your name suggest you are closer to them than Ghol Chot is!!

        • Sufyan bin Uzayr

          Using someone’s name as a metric to judge their race/ethnicity, and then using the said race/ethnicity to judge their views.

          • Ali

            I am not surprised at all by what is happening in South Sudan. It is simply a case of big fish eat little fish. Media reports in NYC about the civil war in South Sudan leave out which side controls what oil or natural resource facility and who sponsors these fighters. Not only is what happening in south Sudan straight out of the movie “The Wild Geese,” it maintains a racist western attitude that Africans cannot control their countries properly, or at least not like the west. The media in NYC does not say that because their are interests in South Sudan which some rich western interests want to control and they do not want the narrative about what is happening in South Sudan to attract the attention of some serious pan – Africans in the west who might bring unnecessary attention to the South Sudan civil war. Secession makes nations weak, nationalism is a weapon of imperialism and I believe that John Garang is rolling over in his grave.

          • Sufyan bin Uzayr

            Absolutely. Secession is a dangerous tool when used to satisfy baseless demands. South Sudan was a failed state from Day One. Nothing surprising; everything disappointing.

  • Ryan

    This article is factually incorrect and offensive. Self-determination is the right of all people. The South Sudanese voted for their own nation, so they could escape neo-colonialist rule based on historic and fueling future conflict and marginalization by an Arab Islamist government in Khartoum. The conflict in South Sudan right now is due to essential failures by the South Sudanese political leaders. The conflict will only be resolved when they decide to put their peoples’ interests above their own. Military intervention is not a viable solution.

    • Sufyan bin Uzayr

      “Factually incorrect”: Clarify. And do not cite “self-determination” as a fact.
      “Offensive”: Clarify, again. And do not cite “OMG it does not agree with my views” as a legit reason.

      • Ryan

        Someone who doesn’t accept a basic principle of international law probably shouldn’t be writing about international politics. South Sudan has a extended history of autonomy and marginalization. When a majority of the people voted for succession after decades of civil war with the north no one was surprised. It doesn’t have to prove it’s “right to exist” it has a legal and historical context for existing despite the ongoing conflict.

        • Sufyan bin Uzayr

          Let me help you by rephrasing your comment:
          “Someone who doesn’t agree with my definition of not-offensive should not be writing about topics I am emotional about. South Sudan had certain factions that sought secession, and then those factions managed to secede, so why be surprised? Secession comes at a price, so why be so worried about loss of civilian lives? South Sudan has a legal and historical context for being a failed state, in spite of the ongoing civil war that has rendered its own citizens homeless and vulnerable.”
          You’re welcome.

  • Brian Haupt

    Is the split really a “forcible partition”? What about the referendum?

    Also, I’m not that sure that the narrative of Sudan keeping its house intact works with last fall’s protests in Khartoum and Omdurman. Are those just minor blips?

    • Sufyan bin Uzayr

      At least those protests didn’t lead to a widespread civil war that seems to have no end.

  • Biel Biel

    Sufyan: No one forced South Sudanese to opt for the right to self-determination and voted in the referendum to set up a new entity: The Republic of South Sudan. It is our right provided for under international law and we begged nobody to give it to us. It was a struggle that was brought about through 3Bs=Bullet, Blood and Ballot. I personally voted in Juba on 9 Jan 2011 for a new state and since 9 July 2011 when I watched a new flag being hoisted, I remain very grateful for the 3Bs and thankful to all those who died for us. In your argument of a ‘failed state.’ South Sudanese are well aware of the fact that the ruling SPLM party has boomeranged and put the dignity of South Sudan at balance through incompetent leadership under Salva Kiir, however, a failure of a party is neither the failure of South Sudan nor its people and at any point in time, no sane South Sudanese would ever regret for voting to have our own state. If I can summarise your argument, it seems to me, you are agitating a regret for opting to have our own state, which indeed, is very insulting to the efforts we, our fathers and our grand-grand fathers had fought for to undo the 190 years’ oppression under different colonial regimes in the Sudan until 2011. For the current war, if the West will stop its hypocrisy to stop Uganda army and Darfur rebels destroying our country, dismantle Kiir’s dying govt and let him relinquish power to a neutral person chosen by South Sudanese, orders rebels to stop fighting, join a new national coalition of govt and help in full structuring of the South Sudanese state through federalism, believe me or not yaa Sufyan, South Sudanese would forget all these bitterness and we shall be back to the state we aspire for. In short, failure of a political party and its leadership is not a failure of the country and the most gift we have offered to ourselves and the posterity, has been the gift of having voted for a new country. NO ONE ON THIS EARTH WILL REVERSE THAT UNLESS AT THE COST OF THE FIRST 2Bs to undo what our 3Bs have yielded unto us! South Sudan Oyee! Freedom from Khartoum Oyee! Our inherent right to self-determination oyee! ‘Aluta continua. Thanks. Gen. Biel

  • Terry Carr

    Arab favoritism