South Sudan’s Internal Dynamics
Part II of Jens Pedersen’s paper for MSS: Making Sense of a Thorny Separation. Part I can be read here: The Political Economy in North Sudan and Internal Politics
In South Sudan the governing Sudqn Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) has increasingly found other and additional concerns on top of the traditional animosity towards Khartoum and the National Congress Party. Following the elections in April 2010, and the referendum in January 2011, an increase in the activities of so-called Renegade Militia Groups (RMGs) have increased the pressure on both the Southern army (SPLA) and the political establishment.
Politically, the SPLM has struggled with the challenges of historically having been an opposition movement in Sudan. It now faces the challenge of being a government in Juba and having to deliver services and fulfil the expectations of the population. Accusations against the SPLM-led government of South Sudan concerning corruption, abuse of power by state security organs, and exclusive approaches in political processes, have challenged the credibility of the government among some political groups and parts of the population. Furthermore, the increase in RMGs has created insecurity in several parts of South Sudan, and increased the pressure on the SPLA to deal with them and protect the civilian population.
Many accusations have circulated about the origin of RMGs, some of which are centred on commanders who fought against the SPLA during the civil war, and who are now accused of receiving support from Khartoum. Whether supported by the North or not, the result has been a situation where some of the ethnic tensions well utilised by Khartoum to ensure local opposition to the SPLM/A during the war have re-emerged. These tensions have now reached a point where, in some regions of South Sudan, they are threatening to destabilise the country along ethnic lines. This in turn has been exacerbated by the traditionally heavy handed approach that the SPLA have applied to many RMGs, including civilian populations accused of supporting such militia groups.
In essence, the SPLA/M has been caught in a dilemma where their legitimacy and internal sovereignty has come into question. This is not only from a security perspective, but also on a political level, from a dissatisfied populace (albeit still small), who are suffering from lack of services and rising prices of basic commodities. In some areas this has worsened by what looks like a deliberate blockage of the supply routes from the North, but nevertheless some feel this has not been sufficiently addressed but the Government in Juba.
When it comes to facing up to the SAF/NCP the SPLM, led by President Salva Kiir Mayadit, has demonstrated a remarkably high level of restraint. This is due to the limited military capacity of the SPLA, which in many respects still resembles a guerrilla army – known for poor discipline and ineffective command structures . The South also recognises that a full scale war could jeopardize the hard won external legitimacy it has achieved in the period up to and after the referendum. Furthermore, the South can ill afford to fight a full scale war.
The SPLM have spent significant time and energy in the post-referendum period ensuring commitments of investment from donors and improving bilateral ties with potential investor countries. The SPLM leadership knows all too well, that these promises can better be fulfilled, if the country remains relatively peaceful. In addition to this, the only other source of revenue available to the coming nation of South Sudan comes from oil, the extraction of which will not benefit from an outbreak of further violence.
The SPLM finds itself in a precarious situation. It is in a situation where the careful balance of avoiding conflict with the NCP, and balancing the act of responding to increased RMG activity, will have to be met with considerations including the economic realities of the new nation, while trying to avoid further antagonising civilian populations along ethnic lines. At the same time it must attempt to strike a balance between ensuring the continuation of international help for development, and standing firm on the implementation and the adherence to the CPA.
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