The recent violence in Jonglei which killed more than 750 in southern Sudan appears to be the continuation of inter-clan cattle raiding that has long plagued the beleaguered state. The current episodes of violence are mainly clashes between the Murle and Lou Nuer in the wake of yet another botched disarmament process. It points to the systemic underdevelopment in most of southern Sudan and the weakness of state administration and security forces. Jonglei has been one of the most unstable states in the South since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. It is a massive state with no infrastructure, a heavily armed civilian population, and many different ethnic groups competing for scarce resources.
If you want a vision of where southern Sudan could go if it remains undeveloped, militarized, fractured by ethnic fault lines, and governed by weak, shallowly-rooted institutions, Jonglei is the place to look. The heavily armed cattle-keepers are caught in a security dilemma: each group is afraid to disarm because they believe this will leave them vulnerable to attack from their armed neighbors, and the army and police are too weak to provide genuine security. In the past, Bashir’s National Congress Party has skillfully manipulated and fueled this instability, though it appears involvement by the Sudanese Armed Forces in the current violence has been limited.
Adam is Enough’s Sudan field analyst.