In July 2011, South Sudan achieved independence following a long-awaited referendum on self-determination. Just two years later, a political crisis within its ruling party boiled over, exposing weak institutions and deep historical divisions among South Sudanese communities. Though it began as an elite political spat, the conflict quickly assumed an ethnic character.

South Sudanese women call leadership to recommit to peace (UNMISS/Isaac Billy)
South Sudanese women call leadership to recommit to peace (UNMISS/Isaac Billy)

While a host of complex political dynamics contributed to the crisis, President Salva Kiir (an ethnic Dinka) and the recently dismissed Vice President Riek Machar (an ethnic Nuer) became the faces of South Sudan’s new war. The latter was accused of an attempted coup d’état and fled Juba, although there was no evidence to support the allegation and it was widely dismissed by the international community. After violence and targeted killings in Juba, the conflict spread across the country.

The national army collapsed, and various constituencies took up arms as part of a constellation of anti-government — and largely ethnic Nuer — forces under Machar’s coordination. South Sudan’s neighboring states and the wider international community were shocked, moving quickly to try to prevent collapse. The South Sudan peace process thus materialized, under the auspices of a regional organization called the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), with the dual aims of ending the war and facilitating dialogue toward a post-conflict political transition.


The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is a regional organization in East Africa that cooperates in the areas of peace and security, economic and humanitarian affairs, food security, and the environment. At the time of the 2013 crisis in South Sudan, its members were Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda. IGAD member states helped to bring an end to Sudan’s long civil war in 2005, and to ensure South Sudan’s right to self-determination in 2011. Its member states, several of which share a common border with South Sudan, have long-standing political, economic, social, and security links with South Sudan.

Mediation Architecture and Mandate

The IGAD Mediation for South Sudan was appointed by the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government in December 2013 to facilitate cease-fire negotiations and mediate an inclusive dialogue towards a sustainable peace. Three mediators were appointed, representing Ethiopia (chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin, the former foreign minister), Kenya (Lazaro Sumbeiywo, a retired general and mediator of the Sudan-South Sudan 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement), and Sudan (Mohammed Al-Dabi, a retired general). Together with Uganda, these four states were the most influential participants in the South Sudan crisis and the IGAD peace process. The mediators reported directly and solely to the IGAD heads of state. The heads of state retained considerable decision-making authority over the mediation and thus the direction of the process. IGAD’s leading role in the peace process was endorsed by the African Union and the U.N. Security Council, as well as the United States, China, and other peace process supporters.

A Technical Secretariat to support the work of the mediators was established over the course of 2014, and at its peak comprised more than 20 staff members, almost all of whom came from IGAD member states. In addition to administrative support, the secretariat provided political and thematic advice, helped with process design, drafted documents and proposals and supported the parties to the peace process during the negotiations.

Stakeholders (Parties to the Peace Process)

The two warring parties — which were known as the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS), led by President Salva Kiir, and the SPLM/A-IO (In Opposition), led by Riek Machar — became the primary stakeholders in the peace process.

At the strong urging of members of IGAD and supporting partners such as the United States, from May 2014 onward, the process was widened to include:

  • SPLM Former Detainees: a group of senior political figures from the ruling SPLM who were arrested during the crisis but later released during the early stages of the peace process.
  • Other Political Parties: a group intended to represent non-SPLM political parties, the composition of which remained a point of contention throughout the process.     
  • Civil Society: a group of nongovernmental representatives, whose composition remained contentious throughout the process.
  • Faith-Based Leaders: a group of Christian and Muslim representatives, whose composition was initially contentious but later accepted by all parties.
  • *Women’s Bloc: Although not specified in the May 9 agreement, at a later stage the mediators and the parties consented to the inclusion of representations of women’s organizations, which became known as the Women’s Bloc. The composition of this delegation likewise remained contentious.

International partners pushed for a multi-stakeholder process to broaden participation and ensure a diversity of views were represented. It was thought that an elite patch-up between factions of the ruling party would not bring about a lasting solution to fundamental grievances, nor necessarily take into account the positions and interests of other constituencies within South Sudan. Despite their commitment to a multi-stakeholder process, and clear guidance from IGAD heads of state, the two principal parties consistently worked to marginalize and/or deny these other stakeholders meaningful participation over time.

Supporting Partners

Members of the Troika—and the United States in particular — offered informal support at the request of the IGAD mediation but occupied no official role. Troika representatives undertook diplomacy in support of peace efforts, and the IGAD mediation often sought out Troika representatives support with diplomatic outreach to the parties. Additionally, Troika representatives offered technical inputs and ideas that the IGAD mediation employed at its discretion; some inputs were drawn upon, many others were disregarded.

Similar diplomatic support was occasionally offered by the United Nations, European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), China, and members of the so-called IGAD Partners’ Forum.

IGAD Plus: In mid-2015, the mediation format was officially expanded with the aims of getting a larger number of African and international partners invested in a sustainable outcome, offering substantive support to IGAD, and offsetting the sometimes harmful consequences of differences between IGAD states.

Members of IGAD Plus included: IGAD, five African states selected by the AU — Algeria, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa, representing each of Africa’s five regions — the Troika, China, the EU, the AU, the IGAD Partners Forum of donor countries, and the U.N.

While the expanded format helped focus partner support and demonstrate a united front to the conflict parties, the change ultimately meant little in practical terms, as IGAD mediators continued to lead direct negotiations and the IGAD heads of state retained control of the process.

Timeframe and Location

The IGAD peace process began in January 2014 and formally concluded in August 2015 with the signing of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), although the IGAD mediators continued to engage in post-agreement talks until November 2015. Talks were convened at various locations in Addis Ababa, as well as in Bahir Dar and Debre Zeit. The IGAD mediation and other partners also undertook extensive shuttle diplomacy in South Sudan and to key regional capitals.

The mediation which led to the 2015 ARCSS was divided into three phases. Phase I, beginning in December 2013, was primarily preparatory and focused on setting the agenda for talks, designing modalities and rules of procedure, securing a cessation of hostilities agreement, and negotiating the release of the detained SPLM leaders. Phase II, which began in February 2014, focused on a more wide-ranging substantive agenda, and continued until the following November. Phase III, which attempted to overcome the difficulties outstanding at the end of Phase II, began in December 2014 and continued until March 2015. Following the deadlock in talks in March 2015, the IGAD mediation was reconfigured in June 2015 as IGAD Plus.

Following the signing of the ARCSS in August 2015, IGAD held a number of further meetings to address issues regarding implementation of the agreement. In late October 2015, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) was formed as the body mandated by the peace agreement to oversee its implementation and formally became operational in November 2015. JMEC was led by a chairman and a supporting secretariat, and its membership included the South Sudanese stakeholders, the members of IGAD Plus, and other donors.

Following the collapse of the 2015 ARCSS, a new round of IGAD-led peace talks was convened in 2017. These talks were known as the High Level Revitalization Forum. This timeline and archive, however, are limited to the 2013-2015 peace process.

Financing the Peace Process

The process was financed and supported in-kind by international partners. Funding for the negotiations, the mediation and secretariat, travel and accommodation, and the cease-fire monitoring mechanism was provided by: China, Denmark, the EU, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and administered through the IGAD secretariat.

Rules and Modalities

Further information as to the format and modalities of the process can be found in the archived documents themselves, specifically the Consolidated Modalities and Rules of Procedure for the South Sudan Dialogue of June 17, 2014 — although much of the talks were conducted in informal sessions, consultations, and bilateral and trilateral sessions.

Terms and Acronyms


Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan


African Union


African Union Commission of Inquiry


Cessation of Hostilities


Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism


Government of the Republic of South Sudan


Intergovernmental Authority on Development


The expanded form of the IGAD Mediation


Abbreviation of the SPLM/A-IO


Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission


The IGAD mediation of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan


Monitoring and Verification Mechanism


Permanent Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements


Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army


Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (In Opposition)


Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Former Detainees


Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States


Transitional Government of National Unity


United Nations Mission in South Sudan