The Conflict in South Sudan – fueled by failed DDR?

In 2005, The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) brokered the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) between the dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) fractions and the National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party of Sudan. While the peace process effectively ended the twenty-plus year civil war in Sudan, the CPA was neither inclusive, nor successfully implemented. The peace process excluded other political and military opposition groups of the south that actively participated in the civil war. It also failed to address south-on-south violence. While the Interim DDR Programme (IDDRP) notably addressed the importance of including all groups in the DDR process, it can be argued that the obvious failures of this ostensibly contributed to the escalation of violence in South Sudan in December 2013 (following secession in 2011). Additionally the prevalence of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the south has inarguably exacerbated the conflict, a conflict that according to Zainab Bangura, the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative (SRSG) on sexual violence in conflict, has seen some of the worst sexual violence committed against women and girls.

Initially the Sudan DDR process had high promises. DDR was an integral part of the CPA and focused on security sector reform (SSR) efforts, while the Interim DDR Programme (IDDRP) targeted Special Needs Groups (SNGs), including child soldiers; elderly personnel; the war wounded and disabled; and women associated with the armed forces (WAAF). Furthermore, the IDDRP included many of the principles outlined in the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS) and in Second Generation DDR frameworks. National ownership, community-driven approach (to DDR), gender inclusiveness, capacity building of local institutions were only some of the various issues addressed. Subsequent assessments, such as the 2010 report by the Stockholm Policy Group reiterated these concerns, including the need for national ownership (by the north and the south respectively) of any DDR strategy.

In line with the ‘one country, two systems’ approach, it was agreed that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the SPLA were to identify 90,000 personnel for DDR within their respective ranks. The aim was to reduce the risk of a return to conflict and strengthen the CPA. However, the actual process of demobilization in southern Sudan was not properly started until 2009 and at the time of the outbreak of conflict in South Sudan in December 2013 only a fraction of the intended caseload had de facto been processed. Additionally many remained skeptical of the entire DDR process, arguing that it was intended to favor the north. With the ongoing conflict the prospects for future DDR initiatives in the South are now uncertain.

As mentioned, easy access to SALW and the failure of previous DDR efforts is responsible for much of the current violence the south. State security does not have capacity (or incentive) to provide protection to civilians or control the illicit flow of arms. As long as there is no policy and legal framework in southern Sudan for the control of small arms, and as long as the DDR initiative are not carried out, the violence will continue and women and girls will continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.

By Helena Gronberg