Preserving Self-Determination in the Search for Peace in South Sudan

Photo Credit:

By Guest Contributor:

Laura Nyantung Beny Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School Co-editor of Sudan’s Killing Fields: Political Violence and Fragmentation



Following decades of civil war in Sudan, in 2011 South Sudan became an independent nation due to an internationally brokered peace agreement and referendum on secession. At independence, Southern Sudanese and many international supporters were jubilant and full of great hope for the new country, a region which had been in nearly perpetual conflict.

Early hopes and celebration gave way in December 2013 to an intractable conflict, now recognized as a civil war, between rival factions of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (the “SPLM/A”). The competing factions include forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer. The humanitarian situation is dire. The United Nations (UN) and other bodies have issued warnings about ethnic cleansing and impending genocide. Over 3 million people have been displaced, internally and in neighboring countries. The UN has declared famine status in several regions. Reports chronicle massive human rights abuses, including gender-based violations, such as rape and sexual harassment. Peace remains elusive.

The UN Security Council, governments, and civil society groups have put forth multiple proposals to end the conflict and restore peace to South Sudan. Proposed measures include: UN sanctions (general and targeted); criminal tribunals for culpable leaders; international peacekeeping forces (AU and UN); and national dialogue. Ironically, some have even proposed “neo-trusteeship” for South Sudan.

None of these preceding measures alone is sufficient to end the conflict. Some, like national dialogue, are necessary, while others, like criminal tribunals or sanctions, might be unnecessary for peace. This commentary gives an overview of several of the proposed measures and potential obstacles to their success. It concludes that the most promising, indeed indispensable, measure is an indigenous, all-inclusive peace process. Trusteeship is especially problematic, as it would entail a break from the foundational basis of South Sudan’s sovereignty – self-determination.

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Self-determination in Western Sahara: A Case of Competing Sovereignties?

By: Maribeth Hunsinger

Western Sahara is a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordering Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. It boasts phosphate and iron reserves, and is believed to have offshore oil deposits. Spain colonized the territory in 1884 and exercised control for over one hundred years, until Morocco wrested de facto control over large parts of the territory.

Some, however, still see Western Sahara as “Africa’s last colony,” with the Kingdom of Morocco exercising colonial power over the native Sahrawi people. No member states of the United Nations (UN) have recognized Moroccan sovereignty. While there remains political support for Morocco’s claim in the West, many countries are increasingly recognizing the legitimacy of the independence claims by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

This piece explores the basis for these respective claims, and in particular the proposition that self-determination in Western Sahara should not serve to decide between “competing sovereignties” but to allow the Sahrawi people to decide whether to retain their sovereignty.

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The Codification of Femicide in Argentina and Latin America


Photo Credit: Sofía González

By: Dina Ljekperic

In May 2015, 14-year-old Chiara Paez was murdered by her 16-year-old boyfriend. Pregnant at the time, she was found buried in the garden of his home in Argentina, in the province of Santa Fe. Thousands of Argentine women responded in protest, fed up with the ever-increasing murder of women and girls. Close to 300,000 women gathered in Buenos Aires on June 3, 2015 and shouted “Ni una menos” (not one less), demanding that not one more woman be lost to gender-based violence in Argentina. The Ni Una Menos movement spread across Latin America, with anti-gender-based violence protests erupting in nearly every country.

Official statistics are absent, but it has been estimated that a female is killed In Argentina every 30 hours.

Gender-Based Killings in Latin America

While gender-based violence is by no means unique to Latin America, more than half of the countries with high female murder rates are in the Americas, with El Salvador topping the list. Throughout the region, the killing of women and girls has increased at an alarming rate compared to men and boys.

The UN describes several factors that leave women more vulnerable to violence in the region: discrimination, poverty, fragile states and institutions, organized crime, narcotraffic, and militarized post-conflict situations.

Argentine activists, along with activists across Latin America, also point to the prevailing “machista” culture, drawing a link between the everyday accepted acts of sexism and harassment to the prevalence of gender-based murder. Continue reading The Codification of Femicide in Argentina and Latin America