Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the government of South Sudan has sought to neutralize the threat non-statutory armed forces pose to peace and stability. Often, the government’s preferred approach has been not coercion, but rather accommodation, which entails negotiating amnesty for armed groups and integrating them into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). While contributing to short-term stability, this approach competes with a simultaneous imperative to “rightsize” or reduce the parade of the SPLA from 210,000 to 120,000 over the next five years and transform the SPLA into a conventional, professional military. With the country’s economy unable to provide 90,000 non-essential SPLA personnel with alternative livelihoods, the government seeks to prevent unemployed ex-combatants from becoming spoilers during the country’s post-conflict reconstruction process. Thus, for the foreseeable future, the government will continue to balance the imperatives of integrating non-statutory armed forces into the SPLA whilst undertaking a sizeable reduction of the country’s statutory armed forces.
This presentation in the video above provides:
- a historical context of armed groups in the South during Sudan’s second civil war (1983-2005);
- an analysis of the government’s postwar approach to armed groups;
- an analysis of the challenges inherent in post-conflict military integration and demobilization in South Sudan; and
- an assessment of the potential trigger points for future armed group mobilization.
I hope you find the presentation useful, but if you can’t sit through it, I hope to put much of this in writing in the coming months.
On May 16, South Sudan commemorated the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). On top of fighting a 22 year-long war that secured South Sudan’s independence last year, the SPLA will now protect the country in the event that the low-intensity conflict with Sudan escalates. While South Sudan’s security forces had already espoused a culture of impunity as a result of their role in the country’s creation, so long as the conflict with Sudan remains unresolved, the SPLA will have a pretext to allow this culture to persist.
This means that the SPLA will continue to suffer the legacy of a liberation army, and its human rights violations will continue. Yes, we have heard about indiscriminate violence in areas where the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) and the resurgent White Army have operated. But the SPLA, South Sudan Police Service (SSPS), and other organs of the state security apparatus have also abused civilians as they go about their daily routines in the new state. Civilians have been:
- Executed after a driver failed to stop while the flag was being lowered at the Dr. John Garang mausoleum in Juba
- Detained and beaten for reporting on a protest in which the security forces had indiscriminately fired into the crowd in Bentiu
- Brutally beaten and almost blinded after arriving at the airport in Wau
When we talk about what South Sudan needs/doesn’t need to protect itself from Khartoum, we shouldn’t take our eye off this underlying human rights issue within the security forces. I hope that when the SPLA celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, that its mission to protect South Sudan’s territorial integrity would have evolved to include protecting her citizens as well.