Three years of civil war have left South Sudan on the cusp of full-scale genocide, with its sovereignty discredited by warring elites, asserts Africa Center for Strategic Studies Director Kate Almquist Knopf in a new report for the Council on Foreign Relations. In Ending South Sudan’s Civil War, Almquist Knopf argues, “The only remaining path to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, restore its legitimacy, and politically empower its citizens is through an international transitional administration, established by the United Nations and the African Union, to run the country for a finite period.”
Almquist Knopf makes the case that an international transitional administration is the only realistic path to end the violence and to allow South Sudan the kind of “clean break” from its leaders and power structures that can restore the country to viability. A transitional administration led by the United Nations and African Union with a 10 to 15-year executive mandate would maintain the country’s territorial integrity, provide basic governance and public services, rebuild the shattered economy, and establish the political and constitutional framework for the transition to full sovereignty.
“Opposition to a UN and AU transitional administration could be mitigated through a combination of politics and force—by working with important South Sudanese constituencies frustrated with President Salva Kiir, former First Vice President [and current antagonist] Riek Machar, and their cronies; and then deploying a lean and agile peace intervention force to combat and deter the remaining spoilers once they have been politically isolated.”
Although such an internationally guaranteed transition seems radical, Almquist Knopf notes that it is not unprecedented. Similar efforts have previously succeeded in Liberia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, East Timor, and Kosovo.
Almquist Knopf emphasizes that “brokering such a transition will require committed diplomacy by the United States in close partnership with African governments.” Despite the challenges, an “international transitional administration with an executive mandate is the most realistic path to protect and restore South Sudan’s sovereignty. It would empower its people to take ownership of their future and develop a new vision for their country.”