After its hard-won independence in 2011, South Sudan slid quickly into violent conflict and became a theatre of enormous human suffering. This article attempts to answer the question of what went wrong, and what prospects exist for South Sudanese to forge a resilient social contract to build and sustain peace. It employs an analytical framework postulating three drivers of such a contract, at the heart of which is how core issues of conflict that underpin violent conflict and fragility have been addressed. The research findings underscore that the way the ruling elites managed the transition to statehood, the development of exclusive weak institutions, and frail social cohesion have all served to undermine peace and the development of a resilient social contract. Core issues of conflict have not been addressed, witnessed by the eruption of civil war in 2013. While the 2015 Peace Agreement provides, at least on paper, the basis for forging a new social contract that holds promise for sustaining peace, building inclusive institutions and nurturing social cohesion, its realization requires political will, strategic leadership, and a national vision, which are currently in short supply.