A “gun class”—the fusion of security leaders with political power, class, and ethnicity—is at the heart of the predatory governance system that has taken root in South Sudan. Changing this trajectory will require redefining the roles of political and security actors.
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The status quo in South Sudan is unsustainable. South Sudan must undertake fundamental reforms if it is to avoid a descent into a Hobbesian state of lawlessness and rule by the strong.
Scholars and security practitioners share their visions on the priorities and prerequisites needed for South Sudan to reestablish stability in the face of conflict, political paralysis, and humanitarian crisis.
Despite the continued conflict in South Sudan, accountability for human rights violations can be initiated drawing on the recent UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan investigative report.
Now in its fifth year, South Sudan’s current conflict has displaced 4.5 million people—the same number of southern Sudanese displaced during the entire three-decade Sudan civil war.
As the four-year conflict in South Sudan continues unabated, the country’s humanitarian situation has reached emergency levels and continues to worsen. Those who have fled their homes relay stories of atrocities, including unlawful killings, mass rapes, torture, arbitrary detentions, and looting and burning of property. A population movement of this magnitude, with majorities of some ethnic groups displaced, has the potential to cause massive and lasting damage to the country’s social fabric, as well as its viability as a sovereign state.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan continues to deteriorate as the conflict persists unabated. Four years of widespread violence have left 6 million people—half the population—acutely food insecure.
Proposed justice measures in South Sudan—including the Hybrid Court—can be pursued despite disruptions in the implementation of the peace agreement.
The absence of state administration, both during the colonial period and since independence, defines this region. But when limited administration has existed, whether from the formal state or from various armed groups that operate there, it has been marked by continued competition over natural resources and land use between traditional chiefs, cross border traders, and rebel leaders. Inhabitants themselves have also played various roles in civil and proxy wars here. While a large economic development project failed to bring much needed assistance to the region, the recent discovery of gold has led both to conflicts and to newfound wealth.
South Sudanese renditions fall afoul of international law and pose legal risks for security sector professionals implicated.
South Sudan’s police force, the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) faces numerous challenges as it seeks to provide internal security across the counties. The SSNPS’ size, force structure, command and control, and current deployment is difficult to ascertain since the ongoing conflict has led both to the integration of previous militia members and to widespread defections. Training for the SSNPS has been marred by abuse and sexual violence scandals. Finally, the force suffers from cronyism in promotions, reportedly widespread substance abuse, and a culture of impunity. A clearer delineation of the police and the army’s roles is required. Donor efforts to address similar problems in the Army have relegated the police to a secondary priority.
While much of East Africa suffers from food shortages due to drought, in South Sudan, it is conflict, rather than lack of rain, that has been the cause of a widespread humanitarian disaster.