The Torit Mutiny of August 1955 in southern Sudan did not trigger a
civil war, but state violence and disorder escalated over the following
years. We explore how the outlook and strategies of the government
officials who inherited the state apparatus of the Anglo-Egyptian
condominium contributed to this development. They perpetuated
authoritarian and violent government practices based on a legalistic
distinction between citizen and outlaw, while justifying their actions
as part of a developmentalist and nationalistic discourse. The Mutiny
created fear of another outbreak of violence which prompted recourse to
collective punishment, an expanded intelligence network and bolstered
the powers and mandate of the chiefs. However, the authoritarian
tendencies were paired with developmentalism and the desire to educate
and civilise the southerners. Through education and the justice and
penal system, they were to be ‘made to learn’ how to become ‘modern’.
This combination of perpetuating colonial government practices and
fervent nationalism resonates with analyses of transitions to
independence elsewhere in Africa, from which the case of southern Sudan
has been largely excluded up to now.
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