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South Sudan: Norway continue efforts to promote political solution

Norway has gained a unique position in South Sudan due to its longstanding efforts to improve conditions for the population, and the key role it played, in close cooperation with the US and the UK (the other Troika countries), in the peace process with Sudan from the early 2000s until South Sudan’s declaration of independence in 2011.

Norway participated actively in these peace negotiations and signed the subsequent agreement as a witness. Throughout the negotiation process, Norway played a leading role, together with its partners in the Troika and other international partners.

John Garang led the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) from 1983 until his death in a plane crash in 2005. His political aim was that the whole of Sudan, not just South Sudan, should be democratic and secular. He gained many supporters in the north, particularly in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. This is the reason for the fighting that is still taking place in these areas, between military forces controlled by the party SPLM-N and the forces of the Government in Khartoum.

In 2005, a peace agreement was reached between the Sudanese authorities and the liberation movement in the south, the SPLM. The peace agreement set a timetable for a referendum in southern Sudan on independence. The referendum was held in 2011, and nearly 99 % of voters chose succession and the establishment of the state of South Sudan.

Growing military tension

The liberation movement, SPLM, dominated the state structure of the newly established country. Growing political differences between factions within the party culminated in a group of influential politicians, centred around Vice President Riek Machar, fiercely and openly criticising President Salva Kiir. The political differences led to growing military tensions, and on 15 December 2013 fighting broke out in Juba, swiftly spreading to other parts of the country.

Intensive peace talks led by the sub-regional organisation Igad (the Intergovernmental Authority on Development), which were supported by Norway, the US and the UK (the Troika) and the EU, resulted in a peace agreement in August 2015.

The main points in the agreement were the declaration of a permanent ceasefire and the demilitarisation of Juba and other major cities, a formula for power-sharing, the establishment of a Transitional Government of National Unity and a Transitional National Assembly, the implementation of far-reaching economic, political and administrative reforms, and new elections before the end of the 30-month transitional period. The Transitional Government was not established until April 2016, when Riek Machar returned to Juba and was inaugurated as First Vice President.

Failure to implement the agreement and the enduring presence of armed forces in Juba led to growing military tensions from the spring of 2016. Just before the fifth anniversary of South Sudan's independence on 9 July 2016, fighting erupted between the forces of President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar in Juba. Riek Machar was driven out of the country, and his deputy Taban Deng Gai was inaugurated as new First Vice President, following a controversial process.

In the autumn of 2016, the security situation in South Sudan was volatile and the humanitarian situation dire[DK6] . Around half of the country's population of 12 million people are dependent on food aid.

The conflict in South Sudan is political, and it requires a political solution. The Government will continue Norway's efforts by maintaining direct dialogue with the parties to the conflict , participating actively in the Troika (together with the US and the UK), cooperating with Igad and the EU, and taking part in the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss).

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