n Conflict Trends - A critical analysis of cultural explanations for the violence in Jonglei State, South Sudan

Volume 2012, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


The declaration of independence on 9 July 2011 did not end widespread violence and insecurity in South Sudan. This violence stems from a combination of armed uprisings against the regime in Juba and an escalation of local-level violence throughout the countryside, as well as related counterinsurgency operations by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Youth - in particular young men from rural areas - are assumed to play a prominent role in the violence. While local violence is of serious concern throughout South Sudan, the State of Jonglei made international headlines following mass killings and the large-scale displacement of the civilian population in Pibor County in December 2011.

Government officials, representatives of the international community and journalists tend to explain local-level violence in Jonglei with reference to a mélange of cultural factors. In Jonglei a number of myths related to the Murle people such as that they abduct children to compensate for their low fertility rate, have added extra flavour to the argument. Some of these factors cannot be ruled out in the overall analysis, but when they are not properly contextualised and supplemented with other more important factors, cultural explanations of violence in Jonglei State by themselves are inadequate and misleading. The causes of local violence are more complex and multi-layered, and need to be seen in relation to the dynamic social structures and political economy of South Sudanese society in the aftermath of the civil war (1983-2005).

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