Peace prospects

The raid into the GPAA in December 2022 was not considered a success, as it did not produce sufficient material benefits for the Lou Nuer. While this led to criticism of the White Army leadership, continued Murle raiding, including in Nyirol county on 12 April, has caused disquiet. Persistent Murle attacks are likely to lead to growing demands for a retributory strike on the GPAA, given that such small-scale raids are unlikely to cease. Murle age-sets are both geographically located—such that groups in Pibor town have little influence over those in Lekuangole—and increasingly broken down into further subsections. Each of these subsections has autonomy over their decisions, making it difficult for the Murle as a whole to reach agreements about raiding.

The Pieri peace agreement was signed in March 2021, with the aim of resolving conflict between the Lou Nuer, Bor Dinka, and Murle. Since then, however, no community in Jonglei or the GPAA has seen a substantive improvement in their material circumstances. Violence remains the central means of securing both economic value (via raiding for cattle, looting humanitarian supplies, and taking abductees) and social capital (due to successful participation in raids). Without profound political-economic transformation in the state, raiding will remain a primary means of improving male socio-economic standing.

The Pieri process failed to stop Murle raids into Lou Nuer and Dinka territory. White Army members frequently cited these raids as the key reason for the mobilization in November–December 2022. Perversely, then, the attack on the GPAA, rhetorically at least, had one of the same objectives as the Pieri process, and differed only in its means.

Since the assault on the GPAA in December 2022–January 2023, a number of rival peace processes have been launched, none of which are likely to be effective. The Jonglei state government was largely hostile to the Pieri process because it included the Lou Nuer spiritual leader Dak Kueth and White Army leaders who have political legitimacy, and as such, undermine the posturing of the state governor. A Lou Nuer peace conference under Chagor’s direction, held from 2 to 4 March in Juba and facilitated by the UNMISS, included almost none of the major Lou Nuer figures with local support, and served only as an empty rhetorical exercise to give Chagor the appearance of popular support.

UNMISS also plans to facilitate a Murle dialogue, which is likely to face significant challenges. The chief administrator of the GPAA is a weak figure and does not command the same respect as his predecessors. A meeting between the Dinka groups of Jonglei is unlikely, as a split emerged in November 2022 between the Bor Dinka and the Dinka of Twic East and Duk counties, who have long chafed under Bor’s dominance.

The problem with UNMISS’ efforts is that they tend to prop up government figures who have neither popular legitimacy nor the capacity to influence events on the ground. In order to break the cycle of violence in Jonglei and the GPAA, engaging with the actual actors responsible for raids is paramount. More recent outreach efforts by the mission have, to its credit, attempted to engage with these figures.