New Context for International Engagement
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“The independence we celebrate today transfers the responsibility for our destiny to our hands. From today on, we shall have no excuses or scapegoats to blame.”
President Salva Kiir’s remarks on 9 July 2011 captured the euphoria and optimism of the day, but they also pointed to a fundamental element of the narrative that had defined the liberation struggle. Namely, that they were not responsible for the immense suffering the people of Southern Sudan had endured to reach that day. Yet as the full extent of the challenge faced by South Sudan’s new government became apparent, so too did the tendency to allocate blame for failures on other, external forces. Moreover, as the country slowly defined itself as an independent state their former enemies in Khartoum were being simultaneously blamed for a variety of offenses (often with just cause) and also replicated in their approaches to governance. In the five years since independence it is increasingly evident that Juba has taken on many Sudanese governance characteristics – especially in the development of its security infrastructure – which has real consequences for its relations with international organisations operating in the country.
It is against this backdrop that this briefing note will explore changes in the dynamics of relations between international organisations operating in South Sudan and the government – focused on recent changes following the violence in Juba in July 2016. The clashes in Juba and the subsequent international moves to deploy an intervention force with a strong mandate have enhanced or at least speeded-up a trend toward greater limitations on access for humanitarians and a more confrontational engagement with the international community. While this trend is most evident in relations with UNMISS, it holds significant implications for all international organisations working in South Sudan and especially humanitarians that rely on government approval to access populations in need.