Ending the armed conflict in South Sudan


The mediation efforts of a wide range of international actors and the protestations of the Pope helped to end the armed conflict in South Sudan in 2018.

A decades-long armed struggle culminated with the independence of South Sudan in July 2011. The newly established state was plagued by violence and instability, with an insurgency supported by the Sudanese government already underway when the Government of South Sudan took power.1 As a result, the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) was deployed on the day of South Sudan’s independence in an effort to end the fighting and create the conditions for the country to develop peacefully.2 The armed groups in conflict with the government were gradually incorporated into the administration and security forces, only for additional armed groups to emerge. In December 2013, fighting broke out between factions of the security forces in the capital, Juba. The conflict spread quickly, and by 2014, the entire country was engulfed.3 The outbreak of war resulted in the Security Council changing the mandate of UNMISS to focus on the protection of civilians and the provision of humanitarian aid.4

Efforts to end the fighting began in 2015 with a series of negotiations mediated first by IGAD, and later the Government of China. Although several peace agreements were signed, the fighting continued until the end of 2017, when the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) successfully brokered a ceasefire. The newly elected administration in Ethiopia hosted further talks in the first months of 2018, before handing over responsibility to a joint Sudanese-Ugandan effort.5 This round of talks concluded in September 2018 with the signing of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict, witnessed by IGAD and the African Union. The Agreement halted the fighting, established the framework for the creation of a power-sharing administration within two years, and established the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) as an agency of IGAD to oversee implementation.6 As the deadline to form an administration neared, the failure to form a unity government led many observers to fear a conflict relapse would occur. Indeed, such was the concern that the peace process would collapse that Pope Francis hosted the rival leaders of South Sudan (in which Catholicism is the largest church) to implore them to refrain from more conflict.7 In February 2020, after two years of relative stability and peace, the unity government was formed.8 This marked the formal end of the conflict. The RJMEC remains operational and continues to support the peace in South Sudan.9

1 UCDP. South Sudan: Government. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/11345 (Accessed 08/12/2020)

2 United Nations Security Council. Resolution 1996. (2011) Available at: http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/1996 (Accessed 08/12/2020)

3 UCDP. South Sudan: Government. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/11345 (Accessed 08/12/2020)

4 United Nations Security Council. Resolution 2155. (2011) Available at: http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/2155 (Accessed 08/12/2020)

5 UCDP. South Sudan: Government.

6 Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), 2018. Available at: https://www.peaceagreements.org/wview/2112/Revitalised%20Agreement%20on%20the%20Resolution%20of%20the%20Conflict%20in%20the%20Republic%20of%20South%20Sudan%20(R-ARCSS) (Accessed 08/12/2020)

7 BBC. “Pope Francis kisses feet of rival South Sudan leaders.” BBC News. (2019) Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-africa-47903916 (Accessed 08/12/2020)

8 International Crisis Group. “A Major Step Toward Ending South Sudan’s Civil War.” International Crisis Group Statement / Africa. (2020) Available at: https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/horn-africa/south-sudan/major-step-toward-ending-south-sudans-civil-war (Accessed 08/12/2020)

9 Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission. Welcome to RJMEC, South Sudan. (RJMEC, 2022) Available at: https://jmecsouthsudan.org/ (Accessed 08/12/2020)

Start Year


End Year



South Sudan

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Risk of a conflict relapse

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement, Peace infrastructure, Peacekeeping mission

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The African Union, Catholic Church, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and the governments of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda




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