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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