South Sudan

The parties to the South Sudan conflict all have their own ideas about what civil society is; and each party tends to believe the most legitimate civil-society representatives are those that think just as it does. Most recently, unresolved questions of what civil society is and what role it should play helped derail talks. The regional precedents are not encouraging, but there are still lessons to be learned from earlier peace processes.

South Sudan
Displaced civilians waiting for food distribution in opposition controlled territories, March 2014. CRISIS GROUP/ Casie Copeland

Fighting not Talking

Crisis Group’s Africa Program staff assembled this Q and A to provide an update on events in South Sudan. For background and further discussion see our most recent report, South Sudan: A Civil War by Any Other Name, and the accompanying videos featuring Crisis Group analysts Casie Copeland and Jérôme Tubiana.

Suspected Somali illegal migrants and refugees arrested in a police swoop arrive at a holding station in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, 7 April, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Losing Hearts and Minds in Kenya

The round-up and mass detention of Somalis in Nairobi, which began in earnest on 31 March, deliberately conflated immigration issues with counter-terrorism and has widened dangerous communal divides. Al-Shabaab and its extremist allies in Kenya will be very satisfied. What the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall last September failed to do – sow division among Kenyans – might well be achieved by these detentions and deportations. This month’s events brought out the worst in Kenya, from the prejudice shown, especially in social media, by ordinary citizens, to petty point scoring by the political class, to police extortion of bribes from lawfully resident Somalis, to the extrajudicial execution of the controversial Muslim preacher known as Makaburi (“graveyard”).

Pastoralism generates wealth and economic interdependence but also causes tensions, usually over water or pasture. In the last few years, conflicts have intensified because of growing insecurity and small-arms proliferation; climate change and the shift of cattle migration southward; multiplication of transnational herding routes; expansion of cultivated areas into traditional grazing lands; and growing cattle herds.

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In the early hours of Tuesday 25 February, about 50 gunmen from the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram stormed a co-educational, federal government boarding school in Buni Yadi, Yobe State, about 65km from the state capital, Damaturu. The attackers locked a dormitory and set it on fire, killing many students inside. Students who tried to escape were shot or knifed to death. In all, there were 59 fatalities; all killed were males; some female students were abducted, others ordered to quit school and go get married or be killed in future attacks. The school’s 24 buildings were completely burned down.

Central African Republic

By failing to engage when Crisis Group and others warned that the Central African Republic had become a phantom state, the international community has now had to become much more heavily involved, at much greater expense, after horrifying loss of life and massive displacement, with much greater odds of failure. The new CAR government (the third in one in a year) looks promising and the capital, Bangui, enjoys slightly more security. Yet the international response continues to be riven by divisions, most notoriously between the African Union and the UN. CAR’s new president has called for a UN peacekeeping mission and Chad, an important regional player which initially opposed this option, now agrees. The Security Council has itself approved a European Union mission, soon to be deployed. But peacekeepers (EU and otherwise) must be guided by a stabilisation strategy that is coherent, comprehensive and meets the needs of CAR not just in the short-term but over the long haul.

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Puntland’s new president, Abdiweli Gas, was a prominent mourner in Mogadishu last week at the graveside of Abdirizak Haji Hussein, a former prime minister of Somalia (1964–67). It was Abdiweli’s first visit to the national capital since his election on 8 January, though he had previously served as a minister (2010-11) and prime minister (2011-2012) in the then Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG). The twitter account of the newly established Somalia Federal Government (SFG) presidency (@theVillaSomalia) hailed the late Abdirizak as a “lion and patriot of Somalia” and highlighted his contribution to “national unity”. The wording will not be lost on Abdiweli Gas. Not only is he of the same lineage and region as the late Abdirizak, but he also now leads the regional state authority that has done the most to promote federalism in Somalia –which, for many Somalis, has dug the grave for national unity.

Central African Republic
Catherine Samba-Panza reacts after she was elected as Central African Republic’s interim president. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

Central African Republic: The Third Government in Thirteen Months Gets Under Way

In 2013, CAR collapsed: the wages of civil servants were paid by foreign donors (notably the government of Congo Brazzaville); security disappeared, and efforts to reinstate it could only be conducted by international forces; there is no government in place and all state services have dissolved. The European Union’s decision yesterday (20 January) to send troops – pending a UN Security Council resolution expected for later this week – indicates that international involvement will only be deepening.

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Central African Republic

The visit of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to the Central African Republic today ensured ample publicity for the CAR crisis and renewed attention to both the international role in addressing it and to American involvement specifically. But the basic options for the international community remain roughly the same.

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Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is a collapsed state today, with more than 613,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), including close to a quarter of the capital city’s population, and another 230,000, who also have fled their homes and now are refugees in neighboring countries, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Virtually none of those displaced are in secure or controlled sanctuaries. Instead they are hiding in the bush or in make-shift quarters with no one fully responsible for their safety. In fact, they are easy targets in the still chaotic security situation in Bangui and many other cities as the French Sangaris rescue operation is just being deployed. Sangaris has yet to be tightly coordinated with the African Union peacekeeping operation MISCA, authorized under Chapter VII by the Security Council, which only comes into being this Thursday (19 December).

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In the media



  • 4 February 2014

    CrisisWatch Interactive Map

    CrisisWatch interactive map provides busy readers in the policy community, media, business and interested general public with a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world.

  • 27 March 2014

    A Darfur Decade: Ten Years of War

    This slideshow accompanies the report Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (III): The Limits of Darfur’s Peace Process, the third report in a series that analyses the roots of the conflicts in Sudan’s peripheries. The war in Darfur started more than ten years ago and continues to affect civilian populations within western Sudan as well as in neighbouring states, including Chad and the newly formed South Sudan.