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13.12.2018 : 12:24 : +0100

South Sudan Security Force Development — new HSBA Working Paper

Update: this Working Paper is now also now available in Arabic.

The Small Arms Survey’s Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan is pleased to announce the release of a new Working Paper:

Work in Progress: Security Force Development in South Sudan through February 2012, by John A. Snowden, is now available for download in English and in Arabic.

The security forces of the Government of South Sudan are engaged in reform and development processes to improve their ability to respond to current and emerging threats, while facing a lack of resources and growing pressures to be more professional, affordable, and accountable.

This Working Paper reviews the recent evolution of the security forces, especially during the last two years, through February 2012. It considers current and evolving threats, including border conflict with the Government of Sudan, militia and proxy forces, inter- and intra-ethnic fighting, and security force cohesion. It looks at these and other challenges, asking whether the security forces can provide services that have a positive effect in the short term—when they are arguably at their most vulnerable—while still continuing to develop.

Among the key findings are the following:

  • South Sudanese security forces continue to demonstrate extraordinary robustness under tremendous pressure. Despite poor coordination, the forces passed key national internal security tests, including the 2010 elections, the January 2011 referendum, and the 9 July 2011 Independence Day celebrations.
  • South Sudan’s external and internal security challenges currently preclude the possibility of robust, thorough security sector reform. Piecemeal reforms and transformation efforts over the last six years have, in some ways, weakened the security forces’ ability to respond to threats, which will remain their primary objective for the short term, at least.
  • High-level decision-making continues to take place in the absence of a formalized architecture or process. The appointment of a minister of national security in August 2011 has spurred security policy planning, including crisis management and policies on allocation of resources. More formalized structures are expected to be put in place in the second half of 2012.
  • Currently, the only agreed solution to reduce security-related spending (and particularly defence costs) is the conduct of large-scale disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of up to 150,000 personnel over an eight-year period. However, DDR alone will not achieve any significant cuts in security spending in the next two years, and it is probably security forces will continue to increase in size.
  • There is an absence of operational-level planning and implementation in all security forces. More importantly, the current mindset of the SPLA mostly ignores the operational level and expressions of operational art. Strategic and policy-related objectives occasionally translate to tactical action, but always with a focus on the attrition of opposing forces, which is invariably the most costly option. A doctrinal shift towards the employment of key elements of operational art is likely to lead to greater military effectiveness and accelerate the reform process.
  • The success or failure of the South Sudan Police Service reform and development efforts will have widespread implications for the entire security system. If the SSPS can assume greater responsibility for internal security, the SPLA will be able to focus solely on external defence, giving it a greater chance of successfully implementing its own reform and development programmes.
  • Though substantial security reform plans are in motion, detailed, strategic security and defence reviews are needed as soon as possible to provide risk assessments of existing initiatives. Such reviews would probably prompt urgent modification of current plans.

Work in Progress is the 27th Working Paper from the HSBA. HSBA publications can be downloaded in English and Arabic from

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