The breaking of peace agreements and the subsequent perpetuation of civil war in South Sudan are sustained by the failure to adopt broad interventions addressing the many layers of the conflict. An understanding of the multiple causes of the conflict can form the basis for a successful and durable peace agreement. To investigate why violent conflict persists, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 29 major stakeholders, including conflict parties, mediators, eminent South Sudanese personalities, scholars and civil society leaders. The responses were grouped into five major themes: historical conflicts, estranged political relationships, power struggles, resource control and ethnic violence (not included in this article). The results suggest that estranged political relationships, characterized by fear, anger, bitterness, distrust and the urge for revenge, are born out of historical conflicts that remain unresolved. The ensuing power struggles and ethnic violence are motivated by the estranged political relationships between the top leaders. Dealing with their estrangements, therefore, forms the base from which historical conflicts can be addressed towards lasting agreements and sustainable peace in South Sudan.

Author Bio(s)

Sam Angulo Onapa is a Ph.D. Candidate in the department Peace Studies, Faculty Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education (HASSE) at the University of New England. He holds an MA in Peacebuilding from Coventry University in the United Kingdom and is a former staff member of the African Union, with twelve years’ experience in the Peace and Security Department, ten of which was in Sudan and South Sudan working in the areas of administrative and financial management and peacebuilding. He also observed post-civil war political mediation processes between Sudan and South Sudan and designed and facilitated grassroots peacebuilding projects in both countries.


This article is part of a study funded by the Australian Government through a Research Training Program Scholarship and Supervised by Professor Helen Ware and Dr. Rebecca Spence.


South Sudan; historical conflicts; political relationships; power struggles; civil war; reconciliation

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