Kyle Anderson (MS), Data Analyst Research Aide, The Zambakari Advisory
Richard Rivera (MA), Statistician & Psychometrician, The Zambakari Advisory
Prior to its birth on July 9th, 2011, the area that is now South Sudan has faced instability, which can be seen as a result of its history of colonization that has, in turn, led to a legacy of instability and violence (Metelits, 2016). The current conflict in South Sudan can be thought of in terms of social, political, and economic factors. The Fragile States Index quantifies these factors, creating a composite score for each country. As of 2016, out of 178 countries that were studied, South Sudan was the second most fragile, only trailing Somalia (Fragile States Index, 2016).
This piece discusses two research questions investigating events within the five years following the birth of South Sudan: 1) What is the frequency and distribution of the interaction of actor type and event types for events in South Sudan from July 9th, 2011 to July 8th, 2016?, 2) What is the frequency and distribution of actor types within the different states in South Sudan from July 9th, 2011, to July 8th, 2016?
The area that is now South Sudan, has faced a tumultuous history, which is the result of numerous factors: corruption, conflicts at both the local and political level, and the dependence on oil as a source of the country’s revenue (Jok, 2015; Natsios, 2015; Shankleman, 2011). The seeds of the current conflict were sown when President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, alleged that the vice president, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, attempted a coup, leading to widespread ethnic violence. During the current conflict, Kiir and Machar live a life of luxury, while simultaneously perpetrating violence against civilians, and have allowed the current famine in South Sudan (Gladstone, 2016; Allison, 2017). Local conflicts between ethnic groups over cattle raiding, especially between the Dinka and Nuer, have also contributed to the conflict. These conflicts have been difficult solve because of the glorification of violence that characterizes some tribes within South Sudan (Pendle, 2015; Young, 2016), which can lead to ongoing cycles of violence, where cultural norms likely legitimize a desire for revenge. Additionally, South Sudan’s economy has been fragile, largely due to its overdependence on oil. As of 2010, 98 percent of South Sudan’s economic revenue came from the oil (Shankleman, 2011), and when fighting commenced between rebel and government forces over the oil fields, it effectively crippled the economy of South Sudan. As a result of the fighting and fragile economy, outside intervention has been needed to bring relief to citizens of South Sudan suffering from the negative effects of the violence, as well as contaminated food, water, and famine ((Pragst, Stieglitz, Runge, H., Dietrich-Runow, Quig, Osborne, Rung, C., & Ariki, 2016; Allison, 2017). In sum, social, political, and economic obstacles are making it more difficult to bring peace to South Sudan.
To investigate violenct factors in the five-year period following the birth of South Sudan, we used the Armed Conflict and Location Event Database (ACLED). ACLED looks at events of political violence and attempts to report events between various groups, such as survivors of violence, rebel groups, and government based groups (Raleigh & Dowd, 2016). ACLED reports information on various characteristics of the events, such as actor type, event type, the location of the event, the number of persons wounded or killed. For the purposes of our research, we focused on the key actors, and the events they were involved with, and where those events occurred. ACLED has nine different actor type “1) government or mutinous force, 2) rebel force, 3) political militia, 4) ethnic militia, 5) rioters, 6) protestors, 7) civilians, and 8) outside or external forces” (Raleigh & Dowd, 2016) and event types into nine different categories: 1) a battle resulting in no change of land, 2) a battle where land is taken by actors not sanctioned by that country (most commonly, a rebel force), 3) a battle where government forces (government army, hired militia, or other government sanctioned force) take back land, 4) an event when a headquarters or base of operations is created by actors not affiliated with the state, 5) an event where either rebels, militia, or government groups take actions with a political strategy in mind (strategic development), 6) riots or protests against the government, 7) violence against civilians, 8) when land is acquired through nonviolent (possibly diplomatic) means, and 9) violence where the groups aren’t physically engaging each other, but are using long range weapons such as missiles, IEDs, or bombs (remote violence) (Raleigh & Dowd, 2016).
The results indicated that the actors involved in events were government forces and to a lesser extent rebel forces. Both actors have been involved in the majority of battles (Government: N = 880, 66%; Rebel forces: N = 707, 53%), as well as the most common actors involved in violence against civilians (Government: (N = 319, 34%; Rebel forces: N = 97, 10%). Additionally, political militias were also involved in violence against civilians as well (N = 321, 34%), and to a lesser extent battles (N = 141, 11%). Government forces (Unity = 64.88 %, Jonglei = 39.28 %, Upper Nile = 63.41 %) and rebel forces (Unity = 51.63 %, Jonglei = 33.67 %, Upper Nile = 61.69 %) were the primary actors involved in events in the states of Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile.
The current data shows that although the initial conflict originated in Central Equatoria, specifically in the capital of Juba, the majority of fighting between government and rebel forces spread to the Greater Upper Nile states of Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile, where the oil fields are located. Although not as prominent in the data, local conflicts have contributed to the current conflicts, which might require intervention from religious leaders, as the past has shown such mediation to be successful (“South Sudan: Jonglei…”, 2014). Resolving and working on these local conflicts also has the added benefit of restoring a sense of legitimacy to a government by protecting its citizens. The current conflicts and violence between warring parties and violence against civilians have made it near impossible for South Sudan to rebuild itself.
Although outside intervention might be partly necessary to facilitate the rebuilding process in South Sudan, it will not sustain itself unless the citizens are allowed to, and do, participate in rebuilding their country. In collaboration with external aid, citizens and the local government would need to work together to help rebuild South Sudan. As a result of the current conflict and violence, countless civilians cannot contribute to the development of local economies or governments, and in turn, the national economy and government, which might allow the government to provide services that could bring self-sustaining peace to South Sudan. Thus, it is critical that an end to violence is brought to South Sudan so that the country can attempt to rebuild itself.
The current problems facing in South Sudan are based largely on existing conflicts that have undermined the country socially, politically, and economically. The current violence has destabilized the country and displaced many citizens, weakening an already fragile economy. Additionally, given the current economic situation, external aid is likely necessary to help rebuild South Sudan. External interventions need to be culturally sensitive to encourage citizens and officials to engage in the process of rebuilding South Sudan, which promises the best prospects for peace.
Allison, S. (2017, February 21). Kiir & Machar: The men that made South Sudan’s predictable famine. Retrieved from: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-02-21-kiir-machar-the-men-that-made-south-sudans-predictable-famine/#.WLhPNzvyvIU
Fragile States Index 2015. (2016). The Fund for Peace. Retrieved from: http://fsi.fundforpeace.org/
Gladstone, R. (2016, September 12). South Sudan leaders amass great wealth as nation suffers, report says. New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/world/africa/south-sudan-salva-kiir-riek-machar-corruption.html?_r=0
In press. Pragst, F., Steiglitz, K., Runge, H., Dietrtich Runow, K., Quig, D., Osborne, R., Runge, C., & Ariki, J. (2017). High concentrations of lead and barium in hair of rural population caused by water pollution in Thar Jath oilfields in South Sudan. Forensic Science International. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.12.022
Jok, J.M. (2015). The paradox of peace in South Sudan: Why the political settlements failed to endure. Berghof Foundation. Retrieved from: http://ips-project.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/IPS-paper-15-The-Paradox-of-Peace-in-Sudan-and-South-Sudan.pdf
Metelits, C. (2016). Back to the Drawing Board: What the Recent Peace Agreement Means for South Sudan. Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Retrieved from: http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/publications/articles_papers_reports/750/:pf_printable?
Natsios, A.S. (2015). Lords of the tribe: The real roots of conflict in South Sudan. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/sudan/2015-07-09/lords-tribes
Pendle, N. (2015). “They are now our community police”: Negotiating the boundaries and nature of the government in South Sudan through the identity of miltarised cattle-keepers. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 22(1), 410-434.
Raleigh, C., & Dowd, C. (2016). Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED)
Codebook. Retrieved from: http://www.acleddata.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/ACLED_Codebook_2016.pdf
Shankleman, J. (2011). Oil and state building in South Sudan. United States Institute of Peace.
Retrieved from: http://www-origin.usip.org/sites/default/files/Oil_and_State_Building_South_Sudan.pdf
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Young, J. (2016). Popular struggles and elite co-optation: The Nuer White Army in South Sudan’s civil war. Small Arms Survey. Retrieved from: http://www.smallarmssurveysudan.org/fileadmin/docs/working-papers/HSBA-WP41-White-Army.pdf
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