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18.9.2021 : 10:20 : +0200

My Neighbour, My Enemy: Inter-tribal Violence in Jonglei — new HSBA Issue Brief

The Small Arms Survey’s Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan is pleased to announce the release of a new Issue Brief, entitled My Neighbour, My Enemy: Inter-tribal Violence in Jonglei, by HSBA Project Coordinator Jonah Leff.

Inter-tribal violence involving the Lou Nuer, Murle, and to a lesser extent the Dinka, escalated in 2009 and has become increasingly violent. Underlying causes include persistent lack of services, increased competition over natural resources, and the erosion of traditional leadership structures and the unspoken rules of cattle raiding. An influx of weapons to insurgent groups in Jonglei, South Sudan, after 2010 has exacerbated tensions.

Local- and national-level politicians have manipulated the conflict for personal and political gain, while Jonglei-based militia groups have provided weapons to tribal fighters to further their own agendas.

This Issue Brief reviews the root causes and impacts of inter-tribal violence in Jonglei between the Lou Nuer and Murle since 2009, with a special focus on attacks by the Lou Nuer throughout Pibor county in December 2011 and January 2012. It assesses efforts by policymakers, church leaders, and others to address the problem. Key findings include:

  • Inter-tribal conflict in Jonglei state has escalated and grown increasingly violent since 2009. Attacks are ethnically driven and aim not only to loot cattle, but also to kill and abduct women and children and destroy homes and communal facilities.
  • The Lou Nuer attacks in Pibor county in December 2011 and January 2012 were the deadliest inter-tribal clashes since a 1991 Nuer attack on the state capital, Bor. The size of the attacking Lou Nuer force, numbering up to 8,000 fighters, was unprecedented.
  • The emergence of rebel militias in Jonglei state in 2010, notably the groups led by George Athor and David Yau Yau, has provided a steady supply of small arms and ammunition to tribal groups. A significant majority of the weapons supplied originate from Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) stocks, though the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has, both systematically and on an individual basis, supplied arms and ammunition to Jonglei communities.
  • The economic and political marginalization of the Lou Nuer and Murle, the erosion of traditional leadership, increased competition over land and resources, and political exploitation have exacerbated traditional inter-tribal rivalries. The Murle are particularly marginalized, both politically and socially.
  • In late November and early December 2011, the GoSS and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan received early warnings of an imminent Lou Nuer attack, but they were unable to take adequate preventive measures.
  • The current SPLA-led civilian disarmament campaign, which has yielded more than 11,000 weapons, has helped prevent further large-scale attacks but does not address the root causes of the conflict. Soldiers conducting the campaign have committed rapes, torture, and killings—mostly against Murle communities—deepening Murle distrust of the SPLA. 
  • David Yau Yau’s rebellion in Pibor county, which re-emerged in mid-2012, has capitalized on disaffection among Murle communities.

My Neighbour, My Enemy is the 21st Issue Brief published by the HSBA.

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