The 28 States System in South Sudan

Issue Brief

The recent violence in Juba between the forces of President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar demonstrated the fragility of South Sudan’s peace and the critical role that the international community is playing in holding the country back from the brink of renewed civil war. But the simultaneous surge in violence in Wau highlighted the daunting fact that the national-level conflict is not the only challenge for the international community in South Sudan. The country is plagued by a diverse set of local-level conflicts that interact in different ways and to different extents with the national crisis. 

Many of these local conflicts have been exacerbated by the Kiir faction’s unilateral introduction of the 28 states system. In the context of heightened tribal tensions, shifting political loyalties, and increased competition over power and resources in a deteriorating economy, this system could cause significant conflict and instability. 

As the Juba crisis unfolds and the 2015 peace agreement appears increasingly disregarded, national and international actors are considering a range of options for creating sustainable peace. This briefing note is intended to inform the debate over how to support stability in South Sudan by examining the 28 states system and its implications for security and governance.