CSO played an active role in the world’s newest country, starting in March 2010, ten months before the referendum that led to South Sudan’s creation. We believe that some of the conflict-mitigation tools and resources that we used there can help our embassies in other countries facing conflicts.
Our first assignment was to support the diplomatic expansion of the U.S. Embassy in Juba in advance of the April 2010 national elections. Then, leading up to the January 2011 referendum on independence, CSO built on this foundation, extending the embassy’s reach to the state level.
In fall 2010, we assembled seven two-person interagency “stabilization teams” that visited all ten states and 80 percent of the counties. Five of the teams lived full-time in some of the most remote areas of South Sudan. They built relationships between the embassy and about 750 key actors across national, state, and local governments; civil society groups; non-governmental organizations; and bilateral and multilateral partners. These relationships enabled the teams to deliver top-line U.S. government messages and coordinate stabilization efforts.
The teams focused on sub-national, conflict-related political and social dynamics, economic trends, security issues, and early warnings of violence. They conducted in-depth conflict assessments of all 10 states. “The teams’ reports and analysis directly shaped policy and programming decisions,” says CSO’s Director of Africa Operations Eythan Sontag. The January 2011 referendum was overwhelmingly peaceful, and 98 percent of the voters supported independence. CSO continued working across South Sudan to expand diplomatic functions and support conflict-mitigation efforts, focusing on hotspots.
The third phase of CSO’s engagement in South Sudan began in January 2012. We concentrated on the three states at greatest risk of instability: Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei. In Upper Nile and Unity, CSO teams focused on monitoring trade and security issues along the international borders. In Jonglei, the largest state, CSO’s Amy Truesdell tracked the motivations and means used for the violent cattle raiding that has gripped Jonglei. She saw the civilian disarmament campaign as an opportunity to collaborate with state and county government officials, youth groups, and U.S. government and international partners to develop practical steps to prevent youth from rearming. “People used guns mainly to raid cattle,” she says. “With few alternatives for employment, many youth in Jonglei view raiding as the only means to make a living, so one of the top priorities is to foster economic development.”
Over the course of two and half years, more than 50 CSO staff members served in South Sudan. They brought expertise in management, security, strategic planning, anti-corruption, pension reform, agriculture, and other fields. From the start, CSO worked closely with the consulate general, later an embassy, in Juba, the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, USAID, and other partners.
As the world’s newest country, South Sudan faces many challenges. CSO continues to monitor events there and will work with its U.S. government and external partners to help ensure the prospects for a stable South Sudan.