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THE political marketplace shapes war and peace in South Sudan. It’s a system of political patronage inherited from Khartoum, Alex de Waal argues in this fascinating podcast from the Rift Valley Institute (listen out for his wonderful first-hand account of Darfur negotiations).
Although the big tent worked in the early days of independence when President Salva Kiir could buy off opponents, it is now failing, as the economy flat-lines. Under these circumstances, de Waal sees the 2015 power-sharing agreement between Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar as insane and, tragically, a charter for a new war.
It not only imposed an agreement on two sides that didn’t trust each other, but did so in a context in which they had seriously limited resources to carve up. But in the current fighting, de Waal sees a glimmer of hope. With neither side able to win a decisive victory, more power is slipping into the hands of increasingly decentralised communities.
Ignored by the 2015 agreement, these communities could organise themselves and begin to call their leaders to account, he suggests that is, as long as another misguided external peace effort doesn’t derail that process.