News South Sudan U.S.

What Obama’s Admin Told Trump’s Admin About South Sudan Conflict

Donald Booth, US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan (Photo: file)
Donald Booth, US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan (Photo: file)

Jan 22, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —– The United States Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Amb. Donald Booth, who has also served as US ambassador to Liberia(2005 – 2008), Zambia(2008-2010) and Ethiopia(2008-2013) briefed the next administration, media and representatives on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan on 18th of January, 2017 before stepping down.

Amb. Booth, who has served for both Republicans under President George W. Bush and Democrats under President Barack Obama, has wealth of knowledge on the two Sudans extending to early 1980s when he served as desk officer for Sudan before the SPLM/SPLA rebellion broke out in 1983.

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Amb. Booth gave in-depth briefing ranging from the root causes of conflicts in the two Sudans to recommendations on how to amicably resolve Sudan and South Sudan internal conflicts in the future.

Below is a summary on South Sudan from his public briefing at the United States Institute of Peace on January 18, 2017.


  1. Lack of institutional foundation on which to build a stable modern state
  2. People of South Sudan never had an opportunity to forge a united national VISION.
  3. Leaders struggled to make a transition from an insurgent to governing class.
  4. Future leaders with the sense of entitlement and focused on securing wealth, not state building

When Donald Booth Arrived in August 2013

When Donald Booth arrived in Juba in August 2013, all the critical initiatives that would have laid the foundation of South Sudan were falling apart and signs of state failure were becoming more visible each day.

“Two years after independent, we saw critical initiatives such as drafting a permanent constitution, pursuing reconciliation and implementing economic reforms drifting and stalling;

“Mean while the influence and authority of security organs were expanding;

“The root causes of South Sudan conflict were already manifest by the summer of 2013, indeed they had been present even before the independent for times they had been paved over by shared goal of independent but they were always there” Amb. Booth Said.

The proliferation of militias, inter-communal animosity and bloodshed, conflict in Jonglei state, tension over the border and political instability at the centre were on the rise by the time Donald Booth began the job in August of 2013.

“The root causes of South Sudan conflict were already manifested by the Summer of 2013” he said.

Unlike many intellectuals and observers like Donald Booth, president Salva Kiir and his supporters who underestimated the signs of a full scale conflict called it a coup when it broke out in December that year.

The Rise of Dictatorship and Ethnic Targeting of the Nuer

Amb. Booth recognizes that President Salva Kiir became too tyrannical toward December and in his position he tried to eliminate his opponents to consolidate power; followed by ethnic targeting of the Nuer to escalate the struggle among the presidential guards.

“So too was the eagerness of president Kiir to eliminate alternative point of view[Riek Machar et al] and consolidate his own power” Booth said.

“The July 2013 dismissal of the cabinet and the firing of Vice President, Riek Machar, jolted [shook] the country;

“In December, when President Kiir took steps to tighten his grip on the Sudan People Liberation Movement [SPLM – the ruling party], followed by a struggle in the presidential guards, followed by targeted killing of Nuer in Juba and that triggered the civil conflict that continue today”Amb. Booth spoke in a briefing that was also attended by Dr. Machar’s wife, Angelina Teny, and other representatives from the government side and as well as from SPLM/SPLA in Opposition

Future Negotiations

Amb. Booth acknowledged that attempts by IGAD countries to negotiate South Sudan peace process failed because the South Sudanese leaders were not willing to compromise.

“But South Sudan leaders were not interested in compromises, so talks dragged on despite numerous IGAD summits, I think 9 in total during the period of negotiations” Both Said.

In addition, the regional leaders were divided, fighting for their own interests. As a result an IGAD-Plus that comprised of IGAD Countries, five other African countries representing each of the five regions of Africa, TROIKA(US, UK and Norway), China and European Union was formed.

“The IGAD-Plus was there to bring a greater pressure to bear on South Sudan leaders to achieve peace;

“I mentioned all these because I would argue that the future diplomacy towards South Sudan is going to require a similar complicated mixture of regional and international efforts with the United States at the forefront”  Amb. Booth explains.


Amb. Booth acknowledge that the United States and partners failed to restore peace in South Sudan. He believes that IGAD and IGAD-Plus all failed because they underestimated South Sudan’s problem and made wrong assumptions.

“Let me also say this, we have made mistakes, the events of the last six months have shown that we and the region have placed too much faith that Salva Kiir and Riek Machar could peacefully share power” Booth regrets.

“At certain point we have overestimated the power we had on South Sudan political leaders;

“I wish we had taken steps earlier to forge an international consensus on the need for arms embargo to stem the flow of weapons into South Sudan;

“Fundamentally, I believe we in the United States wanted peace for South Sudan far more than its leaders did, and like the people of South Sudan we have been unable to ensure that the interests of unarmed civilian populations are valued more than those of the leaders who are empowered by personal arm forces” Donald Booth regrets that the US and partners failed the innocent people of South Sudan.


Despite that South Sudan agreement has collapsed, Amb. Booth believes that the peace document, the Agreement on Resolution of South Sudan Conflict, should not be discarded because it has many good reforms and other fundamentals that are necessary to reform the young African state, South Sudan.

“Given subsequent events, however, I recognize that there is temptation now to discard the agreement, I would strongly caution against that;

“It’s really is more than an agreement between companions, it is a blueprint for reforming the South Sudanese state; one that remains as valid as ever, its provision to install in one of the world’s least developed countries important constitutional, economic, security and justice reforms and institutions;

“The agreement requires that the companions who signed it avoid violent long enough for these reforms to be agreed upon and implemented, sadly that did not happened.” Donald Booth said.


Although Salva Kiir government in Juba severally announced that the Peace Agreement is being implemented, Special Envoy Booth and his partners understand that there is no functioning ceasefire in the country and no reforms are being implemented in South Sudan.

“I recognize that at presence, there is no functional ceasefire, the government is not representative of all South Sudan political factions, and there is no serious work underway on reforms but these remain worthy goals;

“I would argue that the agreement is not halt of accomplishment, it remains the point of references by both the government and the opposition, and we should continue to encourage a return to the foundation of that agreement and we should be presence when the conditions shift to allow for sincere implementation” Donald Booth said.


  1. The United States maintained its in South Sudan even at most dangerous and difficult times.
  2. Continued to push for political agreements that would allowed cessation of hostilities to hold.
  3. Spearheaded fundraising among donors to support key institutions of the peace agreement.
  4. Organized the International Community to help step off economic disaster.
  5. Led International Community response to humanitarian crises, latest estimate is 7 millions people in need of emergency food help.
  6. US responded with USD 1.9 billion dollars in emergency humanitarian assistance since the beginning of the conflict.

Recommendations to Trump Administration

  1. Continue efforts to push the African Union towards establishment of  a hybrid court for South Sudan to achieve accountability for crimes committed during the conflict including the widespread and shocking sexual violence
  2. To base any support for future DDR [disarmament demobilisation and reintegration] efforts on a realistic and affordable end-state  for South Sudan security sector – South Sudan has been an over militarized state since its inception and that needs to change.
  3. To press for reforms of the structures of the state through transparence and coherence constitutional drafting process
  4. Make the reform of public financial management a precondition for future financial support for South Sudan development.


  1. The Situation that let us to seek an arm embargo and sanctions at the United Nations Security Council in December has not improved since our failure to secure passage to that resolution
  2. Encourage the next administration to continue to examine seriously what we can do to incentivise the parties to choose a better path forwards.

To be continued …..

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