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South Sudan

South Sudan

Edward Thomas


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In 2011, South Sudan became independent following a long war of liberation, that gradually became marked by looting, raids and massacres pitting ethnic communities against each other. In this remarkably comprehensive work, Edward Thomas provides a multi-layered examination of what is happening in the country today. Writing from the perspective of South Sudan's most mutinous hinterland, Jonglei state, the book explains how this area was at the heart of South Sudan's struggle. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and a broad range of sources, this book gives a sharply focused, fresh account of South Sudan's long, unfinished fight for liberation.
'South Sudan: A Slow Liberation succinctly examines the challenges that continue to face South Sudanese struggling for freedom while at the same time stubbornly refusing to break loose of the archaic social relations and customs that militate against modernity - the essence of liberation - and the emergence of the modern state in South Sudan.' Peter Adwok Nyaba, former minister of higher education for South Sudan 'This is the most lucid, insightful account of South Sudan's predicament in print. Privileging South Sudanese voices, and threading together social and economic history and political and military analysis with personal testimony, demography and anthropology, it is essential reading for those wishing to understand the current civil war. It is also beautifully written.' Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation and author of Darfur: A New History of a Long War 'Thomas's insightful review of South Sudanese history, ecology and its multiple societies explodes many of the myths that underlie present explanations for the conflicts in South Sudan. Instead of looking to primordialism or narrowly based cultural explanations, Thomas situates Jonglei's violence-prone history within the context of uneven development, global incorporation and the failure of the ruling SPLM to overcome the resulting contradictions.' John Young, author of The Fate of Sudan 'This book is a rare achievement as it unfolds the present through the voices of those who live with the consequences of what has happened in the past. Thomas gives us a much-needed fresh understanding of South Sudan that, while uniquely modern, historicizes and moves beyond stereotypes and received wisdom.' Mareike Schomerus, London School of Economics and Political Science 'A must read for all interested in South Sudan, the world's newest state. Thomas's well-written book expertly documents how statehood came about, its fragility and the lessons from history for South Sudan's future.' Alex Vines, OBE, head of the Africa programme at Chatham House and co-director of the African Studies Centre, Coventry University 'The book thoroughly examines the predicament of South Sudan, focusing on Jonglei state, where the worst kinds of violence along ethnic lines have occurred. It interrogates the explanations, particularly uneven development, that many authors have used in their works. The work is a must read for anyone interested in a comprehensive treatment of the events that led to the birth of the new country.' Leben Nelson Moro, director of external relations at the University of Juba 'This is an illuminating account of the contradictions of the theory and practice of liberation in an African periphery. Thomas teaches us how South Sudan's slow and relentless integration into the global market confounds its liberation unravelling chronically in the bloody conflict theatre of Jonglei. From the local contingencies of South Sudan's war zones the book draws universal lessons on the devastations of the nation-state.' Magdi El Gizouli, Freiburg University
Edward Thomas has lived and worked in Sudan and South Sudan for over eight years. He worked as a teacher, researcher and human rights worker for Sudanese and international organizations. Over the past five years, he has written numerous books, reports and articles about South Sudan and its neighbours.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Front Cover Front cover
About the Author i
Title Page iii
Copyright iv
Contents vii
Figures and Tables viii
Acknowledgements ix
A Note on Terminology xi
Introduction: Gabriel Anyang Remembers his Childhood 1
Gabriel Anyang’s Story 4
The Miracle of Money 5
The Jonglei Mix 8
A History of Abduction 11
National Identity 13
The Aims of This Book 16
Sources 28
Organization of Chapters 29
Part One: Society and State 31
1: The Social Landscape 33
Ecology and Economy 34
Landscapes and Transport 37
Language and Migration 39
Migrations as Connections 41
Exogamy and Multilingualism 44
Arabic and Urban Migration 45
States and Stateless Societies 47
Representing and Misrepresenting Diversity 50
2: South Sudan's Encounter with Modernity 53
The Cause of the Violence – Cultural Irreconcilabilities or the Violence of Development? 55
The Construction of Racial Oppression 56
The Construction of Underdevelopment 60
The New Periphery Defeats the Centre 67
Jonglei’s Long Nineteenth Century 70
The Geography of Uneven Development 75
Conclusion 78
3: Development and Representation 82
Development and Pessimism 82
A History of Postponed Development 85
Underdevelopment and the Economic Autonomy of the State 88
The Changing Basis of the State’s Economic Autonomy from Society 89
Colonial Budgets 89
Dilemmas of Allocation and Representation 93
Post Allocation and Patronage 94
The Emergence of ‘Minorities’ 95
Government Posts and the Drift Towards War 102
4: Theories of Revolution 106
Understanding South Sudan’s Path to Development 106
Anya-Nya’s Aims 108
Anya-Nya and the Communist Movement 108
The Rapid Formulation of the SPLM/A’s Objectives 110
Conventional War 112
Dependency Theory 113
The Limitations of Dependency Theory 120
5: State and Society in Jonglei After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement 126
An Evening with the Ambassadors 126
The SPLM’s Inheritance 127
Ethnic Competition for State Posts 129
Administrative Boundaries and Ethnic Boundaries 130
Administrative Boundaries and Land Disputes After 2005 133
Counties as a Means to Manage State Patronage 138
Concentrating Wealth in Juba 141
The Importance of Towns in the Creation of New Ideas About Ethnicity 145
Ethnicity in Diasporas and Towns 147
Diasporas: Prestige Schools and Prestige Brides 147
Diasporas from (Northern) Sudan and East Africa 152
Urban Ethnic Associations 154
Ethnicity and the State 160
The SPLM System and Ethnicity 161
The SPLA System and Ethnicity 163
Part Two: Jonglei's Mutinies 167
6: The Life and Death of Hassan Nagachingol 169
7: The Civil Wars in Jonglei 178
Overview of the 1983–2005 Civil War 178
Pibor as Vantage Point 180
Setting People against Each Other 182
The 1980s: Jonglei’s Militias and the National Drift Towards War 184
1991: The Split in the SPLA 189
The White Army 190
1991: The Attack on Bor 191
1992: The Nuer Civil War 192
New Youth Army 194
Youth Armies in Pibor 198
The Mid-1990s – War Reconfigured Around Militias 202
Youth and Militarization in Bor and Bahr al-Ghazal 205
Comprehensive Peace and Disarmament 206
8: The Geography of Conflict in Jonglei After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement 211
Other Modes of Insecurity – The Intra-Sectional Feud 214
Jonglei’s Persistent Mutinies 215
Mapping Conflicts – Evidence from Government Records 216
Massive Raids 217
Opportunistic Attacks 221
The Motivations of Non-Traditional Armed Groups 223
Defence 224
Accumulation 225
Murle Systems of Booty Distribution 228
Conquest 229
Prophecy and Politics 230
Armed Youth and National Politics 234
Structures of Violence 236
Part Three: Social Transformation 241
9: Raiding and Eating 243
A Transformed Food Economy 243
Hungry People and Growing Herds 245
A Cattle Economy at the Margins of the Market 246
Traditional Cattle Ownership, Exchange and Labour Systems 249
The Breakdown of the Traditional Livestock Economy 249
Uneven Development in Bor and in the Jonglei Hinterlands 251
Bor Town – Integration into a Market Economy 252
Lou Nuer Areas and the Functions of the Raid 253
Pibor – Access to Markets 254
A Transformed Society 258
10: Nyaburjok 260
Nyaburjok 260
Unruly and Mysterious 261
Abduction as a Gender Story 263
Evidence of Murle Women’s Predisposition to Infertility: The Colonial Period 264
Evidence from the 1970s 270
Recent Evidence 271
Reasons for Abduction 272
Abduction and the Changing Status of Childless Women 273
Fertility and Men 275
Dependence and Resistance 276
Conclusion: Slow Liberation 278
The Jonglei Vantage Point 278
Crises in 2012 and 2013 279
The Crisis in Jonglei 281
December 2013: The Army Splits 282
Jonglei’s New Mutiny 283
National Unity and National Memory 284
The State Rolls Forward 288
Distributing Rent 290
The Periphery and the Future 291
Bibliography 293
Index 309
Back Cover Back cover