The structuring effect of violence on the organization and mobilization of rural youth in Jonglei

Conference paper

Breidlid, Ingrid Marie & Øystein H. Rolandsen (2013) The structuring effect of violence on the organization and mobilization of rural youth in Jonglei, presented at ECAS 2013, 27-29 June.

"Youth” in Jonglei, South Sudan is not on the margins of society or fully embedded in the “traditional” structures. War and recent large scale violence have changed structures for youth mobilisation and collective action,and transformed political, social and economic dynamics in Jonglei.

This paper is based on in-depth research on youth organisation and mobilisation in the state of Jonglei, South Sudan. Widespread violence perpetrated by "youth" (young men from 15 to 40 years) is an obstacle to the post-war stabilisation efforts of the newly independent South Sudan. The state of Jonglei became the subject of international attention following the mass-killings in Pibor County in December 2011. This specific attack was, however, part of a larger spiral of violence with roots in the previous civil war (1983-2005). This "youth violence" is often attributed to a range of simplistic assumptions: breakdown of chiefs and elders' control of the youth, the "cattle complex" (raiding for gain and marriage), abundance of guns, meddling by external forces and even female infertility. The paper problematises these explanations and the conventional understandings of "youth" and youth mobilisation.

Preliminary findings indicate that "rural youth" in Jonglei is neither operating on the margins of society nor fully within the "traditional" social structures. The civil war shaped new structures for mobilization, which are still being used to mobilize young men in Jonglei's rural areas for community protection, economic activities, cultural events, and political processes. Concomitantly, war and large scale violence is transforming local economies and generational relations as well as blurring the historical urban/rural divide. Moreover, in the absence of a well-functioning state authority, systems for youth mobilisation are presently considered to be the main guarantees of security at the local level.

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