South Sudan's Splintered Opposition: Preventing more Conflict

President Salva Kiir reached deals in January with major opposition commanders who broke away from his main rival Vice President Riek Machar. The accords are a mixed bag, opening space for resolving bitter wrangling over the northern city of Malakal but increasing odds of wider infighting among opposition ex-comrades. The agreements deal with two flashpoint issues – stalled army unification and the Malakal dispute, which has prevented resolution of the conflict in Upper Nile state. Kiir’s exclusion of Machar from January’s deal-making undermines the 2018 pact that ended major fighting after five years of war, raising tensions with Machar loyalists. Regional leaders should press Kiir and Machar to agree on a program for integrating and downsizing the army, which will be key to halting clashes over the flashpoint issue. They should also urge the rivals to support the dialogue necessary to make the Malakal deal stick and avoid sparking fresh conflict.