South Sudan's National Dialogue Puts Ordinary Citizens in Control

The idea of a National Dialogue was first mooted in December 2016 when South Sudan was arguably at its lowest point. Three years into the war, fighting engulfed the entire country again and the UN was warning of a potential genocide and impending famine. The 2015 peace agreement was mostly defunct by this point, though it continued to be endorsed by neighbouring governments, the so-called Troika consisting of the U.S, UK and Norway, and also received support from the European Union, African Union and the UN.

It was in this context that President Salva Kiir announced the intention to launch a National Dialogue to "save the country from disintegration and usher in a new era of peace, stability and prosperity". The initiative was to have three stages. The first would be grassroots consultations. Next would follow regional conferences. And this would all culminate in a national conference.

While the regional mediation focused on power sharing and transitional security arrangements, participants in the National Dialogue offered more grounded views of the conflict. Groups in western Bahr-el-Ghazal, for example, raised concerns with administrative divisions, social unrest and the killing of peaceful demonstrators shortly after independence, that they cited as an ongoing source of tension in the area. Participants in Upper Nile discussed the role that disputes over land and the drawing of administrative boundaries played in formenting violence between Padang Dinka and Shilluk communities. These were the sorts of issues the wider peace talks had neither made space to examine, nor promised to address writes David Deng for African Arguments.

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The sister of Duku Evans wails after he was killed (file photo).

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