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17.4.2021 : 22:22 : +0200

Armed insurgencies in Greater Upper Nile: new Sudan HSBA Issue Brief

Fighting for spoils: Armed insurgencies in Greater Upper Nile, new Issue Brief from the Small Arms Survey’s Sudan/South Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA), analyses the roots of the armed insurgencies led by George Athor, Peter Gadet, and other Southern commanders in the wake of elections held in April 2010—all of whom have claimed to seek systemic changes to the Juba-based government or to overthrow it.

It assesses the current approach of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the government of the Republic of South Sudan to containing them, concluding that it is both ad hoc and unsustainable. Furthermore, the approach fails to address the grievances of the communities who joined the insurgent leaders in taking up arms against the government and the army.

Key findings include:

  • As of late October 2011 the major insurgents in Greater Upper Nile have not made significant headway in achieving their purported political objectives. Commanders formerly loyal to Peter Gadet, as well as two Shilluk commanders, continue to pose active military threats.
  • With the arguable exception of the Shilluk groups, the main insurgencies are not authentic expressions of discontent in marginalized communities. Instead, the commanders have manipulated legitimate local grievances, mobilizing supporters—particularly idle young men—to fight on their behalf for their own objectives.
  • Despite claims by rebel leaders, the insurgencies have remained almost completely operationally independent of one another, and the self-interested motivations of the commanders make a future unified rebellion unlikely.
  • There is strong circumstantial evidence that the forces of Peter Gadet and George Athor have received logistical and materiel support, including small arms and ammunition, from Khartoum and other external sources.
  • The SPLA’s at times indiscriminate attempts to crush the insurgencies have increased the deep-seated anger among many of the disenfranchised minority communities most affected by the violence.
  • The repeated outbreaks of violence during the integration of former militias into the SPLA reveal a sharp disconnect between the government’s accommodation policy and the deep animosity of some key players in the army towards the armed groups.
  • The current approach of integrating insurgent commanders—with inflated ranks—and their men is not sustainable and may act as an incentive for potential future rebels.

‘Fighting for spoils’ is the 18th Issue Brief from the Small Arms Survey’s HSBA project. It can be downloaded in English from the Sudan HSBA website.  An Arabic version will be published soon.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact HSBA Project Manager, Claire Mc Evoy: Tel: + 254 738 220008


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