South Sudan: The Politics of Delay

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International sponsors of South Sudan’s peace process should respond creatively to the delay in forming the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU). An intemperate response, which might include a new, immovable and near deadline or rapidly imposing sanctions, runs two risks. First, it jeopardizes the ceasefire—the truly substantial achievement of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). Second, a deadline could be an opportunity for the government of Pres. Salva Kiir Mayardit to reinforce its authoritarianism. The 100-day extension provides an opportunity to put in place inclusive processes to address South Sudan’s governance crisis.

This memo uses three concepts to frame the challenges and opportunities arising from the recent (and recurrent) postponement of the formation of TGNU. The concepts are: (1) the politics of delay (‘tajility’); (2) deadline diplomacy; and (3) political unsettlement. The memo argues that recurrent postponement of a definitive political settlement is a characteristic of a turbulent political marketplace, and that it serves the interests of political actors (stronger and weaker conflict parties have different calculations),but also can potentially be leveraged by civil society. International partners should explore how best to utilize the political opportunities arising from recurrent delay and non-settlement of definitive political issues to support civic agendas.

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Alex de Waal

Alex de Waal is Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation and a Research Professor at The Fletcher School. Considered one of the foremost experts on Sudan and the Horn of Africa, his scholarship and practice has also probed humanitarian crisis and response, human rights, HIV/AIDS and governance in Africa, and conflict and peacebuilding.

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