BOR, JONGLEI STATE, South Sudan — The threat of escalating, mass violence against civilians in South Sudan's volatile Jonglei border-state looms large, according to a new Enough Project field report and video.
Over the past year, violence in the world's newest nation has been particularly severe in Jonglei state, accounting for more than half of all people killed in the country in 2012. The government of Sudan has historically been instrumental in facilitating the violence by providing arms, ammunition, and cash to spoilers in South Sudan. Currently, a rebellion allegedly backed by the government of Sudan and led by David Yau Yau poses a daily danger to Jonglei communities and threatens to undo any progress that has been made toward stability in the state--especially if the South Sudan military responds in a manner that isolates the civilian population, according to the report.
To address the violence, the government of South Sudan must fully implement the peace process that it initiated in early 2012, engage deeper with the Jonglei communities, and modify its security strategy to prioritize the protection of civilians, the report said. Further, the international community must increase pressure on Khartoum to stop its assistance to rebels in South Sudan and ensure that this issue is addressed in the Sudan-South Sudan peace deal implementation talks.
Amanda Hsiao, co-author of the report and Enough Project Juba Field Researcher said:
"The violence in Jonglei presents a test case of the South Sudanese government's ability to fulfill its responsibility to protect and to govern in a more inclusive and transparent manner. Representatives from throughout Jonglei state came together in May and identified some of the essential causes of the conflicts. The responsibility to translate those discussions into action--which has yet to take place in a coordinated fashion--falls to Juba."
While the government's state-wide disarmament campaign has resulted in temporary stability in Lou Nuer ethnic communities during the rainy season, abuses committed by the army during the disarmament campaign in Murle ethnic communities have directly contributed to renewed insecurity, further stalling the Jonglei peace process.
Laura Heaton, co-author of the report and Enough Project Consultant said:
"The South Sudanese army's disarmament in the Lou Nuer and the Murle areas has transpired very differently. Few people we spoke to in Akobo County deny that the disarmament campaign has been the primary factor contributing to the relative peace in the Lou Nuer areas in recent months, while at least 100 cases of beatings, torture, looting, and rape were committed in Murle communities in Pibor County. The South Sudan government needs to quickly demonstrate that it grasps the concerns of South Sudanese who have long believed that they must depend on their own communities for protection and to fulfill basic needs--and who have therefore made pragmatic decisions, like stealing their neighbor's cattle or joining the local militia."
The international community, including the U.S., can play a crucial role by supporting the South Sudan government in addressing the immediate and long-term threats to civilians in Jonglei. Projects aimed at addressing the root causes of violence in Jonglei, including helping establish rule of law and accountability mechanisms, promoting alternative livelihoods, and developing infrastructure, should be expanded, the report said.
The report and accompanying video are based on field research conducted in Juba, the capital of South Sudan; Bor, the capital of Jonglei; and Pibor and Akobo, the towns that serve as the centers of the Murle and Lou Nuer communities.