As U.S. leadership of the international order fades, more countries are seeking to bolster their influence by meddling in foreign conflicts. In this new era of limit testing, Crisis Group’s President Robert Malley lists the Ten Conflicts to Watch in 2019.
A regional protection force has been authorized to deploy as part of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) in order to provide a secure environment in and around the capital city, Juba, and protect civilians. But without a viable political strategy to resolve the underlying causes of the civil war, the force will struggle to do anything more than reduce some of the most negative symptoms of the conflict and could spark direct confrontation with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) or any rebel forces that might threaten Juba.
In July 2016, nearly a year after it had been signed, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan collapsed. This meant that the former Transitional Government of National Unity also collapsed and was replaced by a governing regime led by President Salva Kiir and those collaborators who he had coopted into service. The final straw was a period of intense fighting between government and rebel forces that had been deployed in Juba as part of the peace deal. The fighting and subsequent rampaging of soldiers saw hundreds killed, numerous crimes committed against the civilian population, and led the remaining rebel forces and their leader to flee the city. There followed a flurry of calls for an intervention force to protect civilians, especially in Juba.
South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, and one of its most troubled. Rich in oil reserves and with vast fertile lands it could—if peace is assured—feed itself and much of Africa. Instead, it has been racked by internal violence. Since its independence from northern Sudan in 2011, a devastating civil war has left tens of thousands dead and up to two million displaced.
There is little doubt both government and rebel forces were guilty of atrocities during that conflict, many of them ethnic crimes. It is because of the nature of these crimes that the international community must be careful about mechanisms for ensuring peace.
History teaches us that the birth pangs of new nations can be extremely painful, and that the likelihood of violent struggle over divisions of race can be high. Many newly independent nations have subsequently fallen into internal strife. It took the United States 200 years to reduce discrimination in the law, and the country descended into a civil war in the process. Less than a hundred years ago, southern Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom after an internal armed conflict surrounding differences of religion and a desire for self-government.
This article was originally published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in April 2016.
The number of uniformed personnel serving in UN peace missions reached a new record in 2016, at almost 123,000. Following grave failings of UN missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, there is growing awareness within the UN of a widening disjoint between the expectations placed upon peacekeeping forces and what they can actually achieve. One aspect of the debate relates to the question of how robustly UN missions should operate in enforcing their mandate. In some quarters the resolute use of force is seen as the key to greater success. Almost three years ago the UN sent a Force Intervention Brigade to Congo with an explicit mandate to neutralise armed groups. An assessment of its record reveals that the brigade cannot be regarded as an organisational model worth replicating, and that peace-enforcing mandates do not necessarily lead to greater success in peacekeeping.
Three years ago, on 28 March 2013, the UN Security Council decided to send a 3,096-member Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) to eastern DR Congo (Resolution 2098). The move came in response to persistent difficulties in establishing peace in the region after the March 23 Movement (M23) was able to capture North Kivu’s provincial capital Goma in November 2012, unhindered by UN forces.