Briefing Paper

The State of the South Sudanese National Unity

This paper discusses the state of South Sudan’s national unity. Ever since the outbreak of the violent conflict in 2013, the landscape in South Sudan has not been the same. The conflict has created very bitter divisions and experiences that have had cracking and shattering effect on the social glue of this nation. The crisis that started initially as a leadership contest within the SPLM Party was completely
mismanaged and it degenerated into a violent conflict. The conflict violently spilled into both
military and ethnic spaces. Evidently, political leaders successfully used the military and ethnic
affiliations as tools to settle political scores. This unfortunately explains the penchant for the
armed elements to target civilians along ethnic lines at the beginning of the conflict, especially in
2013 and 2014. This begs the questions: why have things gotten to this point so rapidly?
Why has a nation that appeared robustly united (Baubock, 2002) during the referendum and
independence become so divided in a rather short period? What do the South Sudanese think is
the reason for this state of affairs? Above all, why is unity necessary? This policy brief explores such questions and concludes with policy-oriented advice.