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Estranged Political Relationships: Demystifying the Root Causes of Violent Conflicts in South Sudan

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Abstract

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.

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