Spotlight: Debating options for peace in Sudan and South Sudan


Institute for Security Studies (ISS) research is informing African Union (AU) policy and planning for peace in Sudan and South Sudan, countries that have struggled with periods of violent conflict followed by complex and ambitious attempts at peace.

The AU has a key role in preventing and reducing conflict in both countries, including mediation and application of political and diplomatic pressure. It also helps to motivate for development and donor funds.

AU officials tasked with navigating a sustainable peace in these troubled states face complex questions such as how to manage delicate political transitions, reform security sectors with a track record of human rights abuses, reintegrate combatants and returning refugees, ensure sound natural resource governance and deal with the danger of a resurgence of conflicts.

The ISS Addis Ababa office is working with the AU to find the answers. The African Peace and Security Dialogue project at the ISS convened a series of closed discussions with officials from the AU, the region’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development, ISS researchers and civil society partners.  

A May 2019 workshop focused on South Sudan, which faces the difficult task of implementing its latest peace deal after nearly eight years of civil war. A second workshop, in August 2019, considered the future of Sudan since Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the military after sustained civilian protests. Talks about power sharing between the military and civilian authority have led to an agreement to hold elections in three years.

Dialogues hosted by the ISS encouraged debate and acceptance of rival opinions

The ISS encouraged debate among delegates and acceptance of rival opinions. Its research enabled all parties to establish broad consensus on desired outcomes. ‘We created a neutral space for policy makers and researchers to look in new ways at the risk of conflict and potential for peace,’ says ISS Senior Researcher Omar Mahmood.

Among the thorny issues under discussion in the South Sudan event were the return of exiled politicians, the role of refugees, release of political prisoners, financial transparency and corruption, implementation of existing sanctions, and effects of ethnic divisions. Delegates looked at how African and international pressure could influence the peace process and future security arrangements, and whether liberation leaders can govern a country in peacetime. 

Discussions on Sudan focused on post-Bashir political and security dynamics, and uncertainty following the signing of the constitutional declaration that creates a transitional government. Delegates discussed options for security sector reform, economic performance, and the role of women in the country’s peaceful revolution.

‘Insights from ISS research provided useful context for rigorous discussions about the situation in these countries, along with scenarios and options for addressing future challenges,’ said Andrews Atta-Asamoah, ISS Senior Research Fellow.

The success of the workshops was demonstrated by the quality of the dialogue, the depth of the policy options discussed, and requests from the AU for further discussions. Boitshoko Mokgatlhe, coordinator for Sudan and South Sudan in the Peace and Security Department of the AU Commission said: ‘The sessions have been extremely useful as we get the chance to interact and think creatively on new avenues for engagement.’

The workshops and research were funded by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), the government of the Netherlands, and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more information contact:

Omar S Mahmood, ISS: +251 11 515 6320;

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