Why is Violence Escalating in Southern Sudan?

Report – external series

Rolandsen, Øystein H. (2010) Why is Violence Escalating in Southern Sudan?. Noref Policy Brief: 2. Oslo.


Despite the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement 9 January 2005, which formally ended the 22-year civil war in Southern Sudan, the frequency and severity of local conflicts increased during 2009. These conflicts are threatening the stability of the South, and ultimately the peace process itself. Widespread insecurity will also make it difficult to hold the planned national elections in April and the 2011 referendum on secession.

Land and natural resources are increasingly contested in Southern Sudan and these issues trigger and fuel local violence. The return of internally displaced persons and refugees is also a source of controversy. In addition, partially incompatible interpretations of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army policy of “land belongs to the people” combined with institutional fragmentation further complicate the situation.

The underlying drivers of the increased insecurity in Southern Sudan are: a tense political setting; a highly militarised society in terms of access to weapons and a lowered threshold for using violence to settle disputes; and finally, lack of institutional capacity to provide security and to prevent, contain and solve conflict in Southern Sudan. This situation foments the use of violence as a means to further the interests of groups and individuals.

The solution lies in a two-stage process starting with short-term robust interventions (combining military deterrence and local systems of negotiation), and effective planning of long-term measures (such as disarmament, land legislation and reform) addressing the underlying factors to this predicament. Only when this first stage is finalised will long-term measures have the desired effect.

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