Mobilization for a large-scale assault on the GPAA began in Nuer and Dinka areas of Jonglei in November 2022, against a backdrop of intermittent Murle raids, which resulted in abductions of women and children and stolen cattle. Lou Nuer White Army leaders and spiritual authorities declared a need to stop such raids and seek retribution.[1]

Both the national and the state governments repeatedly appealed to the Lou Nuer not to mobilize, but without success. The failure to prevent the mobilization represents a broader crisis of political legitimacy. In Akobo, government salaries go unpaid and the Lou Nuer have seen no peace dividends since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in 2018, which brought to an end five years of brutal government assaults on Lou Nuer civilians (Craze, 2020). In May 2023, Lou Nuer youth detained two Jonglei state ministers in Gadiang and held them hostage, while demanding the payment of salary arrears. The Lou Nuer consider the state government in Bor to be illegitimate and think that the outgoing governor of Jonglei, Chagor, was an appointee from Juba without local support.[2] In this context, the White Army has emerged as the actor with political legitimacy for the Lou Nuer, with little reason to be beholden to Bor or Juba. A similar situation applies to Dinka and Murle armed youth.

In December, Dinka youth mobilized in Duk county and joined forces with Nuer White Army fighters, principally from Akobo, Nyirol, and Uror. The raiders initially targeted Gumuruk and Lekuangole. A combined force attacked Gumuruk on 24 December, defeating the Murle and razing the town. This force continued into the GPAA, penetrating as far as Lotilla and Verthert, 9 km from Pibor town. A second wave of fighters, largely mobilized from Akobo East, attacked Lekuangole on 26 December.

Tens of thousands of fighters participated in the attacks, which led to over a hundred casualties, the displacement of thousands of people to Pibor town, the destruction of health facilities, the razing of civilian property, and the theft of an estimated 30,000 head of livestock.[3] This assault occurred despite continuing Murle raids, which took advantage of the movement of much of the Dinka and Nuer male population into the GPAA. In December 2022 alone, seven Murle raids into Uror county resulted in the deaths of 20 and the abduction of 37 Lou Nuer civilians, as well as the seizure of several thousand head of cattle.[4]

Following the raid on Gumuruk, some 5,000 Lou Nuer went to Anyidi and Mareng Junction in Bor South. Raided cattle were sold for cash and traded directly for materiel with soldiers from SSPDF Divisions 8.[5] While the rhetoric in Juba is that civilians must be disarmed,  selling ammunition and weapons to youth fighters in Jonglei has become a necessary means of survival for intermittently paid soldiers.


[1] The White Army are young Nuer men, customarily organized as cattleguards and mobilized for communitarian struggles. See Young (2007).

[2] See Small Arms Survey (2020) and Craze and Markó (2022).

[3] Telephone interviews with Jonglei state government officials; UNMISS officials; international humanitarians; and Bor Dinka and Lou Nuer informants, January–May 2023.

[4] Telephone interviews with Lou Nuer informants and UN officials, January 2023.

[5] Telephone interviews with Lou Nuer and Bor Dinka present in Bor town during the sales, January–April 2023.