Civil Disarmament in Southern Sudan

Background History

The review of the civilian disarmament in Southern Sudan is essentially a review of the civil war in the area which has been devastated by the longest civil war in Africa comprising two periods: the first civil war from 1955 to 1972 and the second civil war from 1983 to 2005. Moreover, in order to discuss these civil wars and their consequences, it is equally important to trace back the causes of the wars in the history of the country.

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is known historically to comprise the northern and southern Sudan. The former being the more developed and prosperous has the capital of the country Khartoum where the central government is. This part is dominantly Muslim and accommodates mostly the Arab tribes. On the other hand, the latter is inhabited by the African tribes who are mostly Christians or have their own local worships. With these characteristics the country has been viewed as peripheral to both the ‘Arab’ Middle East and the non-Arab Africa (Fluehr-Lobban et al, 2001).

The relevant history to the conflict of South Sudan starts in 1898 when Sudan was a British colony administered by United Kingdom and Egypt. As early as 1898 northern and southern Sudan were administered as two separate colonies; yet in the early 1920s the Closed Districts Ordinances was passed by the British and it was not possible to travel from the north to the south without having a passport. This law also stipulated that permits must be obtained in order to do business in the South. While Arabic and English were the official languages of the North, the official languages in the South included English, Dinka, Bari, Nuer, Latuko, Shilluk, Azande and Pari (Lafon). Christian missionaries were allowed to work in the South where Islam was discouraged. At this stage the British were mainly concerned with developing the economy and infrastructure of the North which comprised six provinces: Khartoum, Kordofan, Darfur, and Eastern, Northern and Blue Nile provinces.

In 1943 a North Sudan Advisory Council was established by the British to provide advice on the governance of the six Northern provinces. This was believed to be a preparation of the north for self-rule. However, the British reversed their policy regarding the South and decided to integrate the South and the North into one country. This was decided in the Khartoum Administrative Conference of 1946 which was not attended by the South administrators. Later in 1947 in a conference in Juba the Chiefs of the South were informed of the decision of forming one state.

Then Sudan Legislative Assembly was established in 1948 and the South was represented by 13 delegates selected by the British. These political developments have been some of the main resentments of the Southerners. An evident would be the following long quote which illustrates the same chronology of these developments but in the point of view of a Southern politician who was a leader in the civil war: (this quote is necessary to establish the main causes of the civil war).

“In an effort to prepare the North Sudan for self-rule, the North Sudan Advisory Council Ordinance was enacted in 1943. The ordinance covered all the six North Sudan provinces: comprising of Khartoum, Kordofan, Darfur, Eastern, Northern and Blue Nile provinces. This council was empowered to advise the condominium authority on how to administer North Sudan in certain specific areas. Members of the Advisory Council were all North Sudanese. The ordinance had no application or relevance to the territory of South Sudan. Thus far, North and South Sudan were regarded as two separate countries colonized by the British and Egyptians.

Instead of establishing an advisory council for South Sudan similar to that of North Sudan, the resolutions of the Administrative Conference held in Khartoum in 1946 surprisingly advocated the colonization of South by North Sudan. It must, however, be pointed out that the conference took the decision at the back of the people of South Sudan as they were not represented and because the conference was meant for administrators in North Sudan only, the British administrators in South Sudan did not attend. Consequently, this unexpected outcome revealed the conspiracy between the British and the North Sudanese supported by Egypt to hand over South Sudan to North Sudan as a colonial territory. Certainly, this plan provoked bitter reaction from the South Sudanese and their sympathizers.

The betrayal of South Sudan by the British was finally concluded in the infamous Juba conference of 1947. Precisely the conference was convened to inform the chiefs of South Sudan of the irreversible decision to hand over South Sudan to the new colonial masters from North Sudan. This unpalatable decision was crowned by the promulgation and establishment of the Sudan Legislative Assembly in 1948. Thirteen (13) delegates from South Sudan were handpicked and forced to represent South Sudan in the Assembly.

The Cairo Agreement of 1953 was no exception to the rule. Once again, the colonial masters from Britain and North Sudan masquerading as representatives of national political parties with tacit support of the Egyptian government conspired to grant self-determination to the Sudan without the participation of South Sudan. The people of South Sudan were deliberately excluded on the pretext that they had no political parties or organizations. This was yet another ploy made by political parties of North Sudan to claim representation of South Sudan with the erroneous and unjustifiable assumption that the Sudan is one country. Nevertheless, the people of South Sudan regard themselves as ‘internally colonized people’” (Machar, 1995)

The First Civil War (1955 – 1971)

Although the civil war in the southern Sudan is sometimes regarded as one long conflict from 1955 to 2005 only separated by a ceasefire of 11 years, it is usually referred to in the literature as two civil wars. The first, sometimes referred to as Anyanya rebellion or Anyanya I, started in 1955 and ended by the Addis Ababa agreement in 1972. The war was triggered in August 1955 by the mutiny of the members of Equatorial corps and local police of Torit and some other towns in the South. Although the mutiny was suppressed, the survivors started an insurgency in the rural areas. These groups of insurgents formed Anyana guerrilla army which was then a secessionist movement.

This separatist movement which started in Equatoria spread to the provinces of Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal. But the movement was seriously affected by some internal ethnic divisions. Eventually in 1971 the former army lieutenant Joseph Lagu unified all the guerrilla factions in the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) thus establishing the first separatist movement in the history of Sudan. This conflict ended by Addis Ababa agreement in 1971. This war initiated the culture of civil war and the consequences started the violent attitudes since it resulted in the killing of five hundred thousand in addition to hundreds of thousands who were forced to leave their homes.

The Second Civil War(1983 – 2005)

The second civil war, sometimes referred to as Anyanya II, was one of the longest and deadliest wars of the late 20th century which claimed the lives of 1.9 million civilians and forced more than 4 million to flee their homes. The outbreak of this war was in 1983 when Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was founded under the leadership of John Garang. This time the movement was more organized and better equipped. When the present Sudan ruling regime came into power in 1989, the SPLA was in control of large areas of Equatoria, Bahr al Ghazal, and Upper Nile provinces and also operated in the southern portions of Darfur, Kordofan, and Blue Nile provinces.

However, in August 1991 internal dissension was initiated by Riek Machar and Lam Akol, opponents of Colonel Garang, when they formed Nasir faction of the rebel army. Later in 1992 and 1993 two more rebel factions were formed: the earlier one by William Nyuon Bany and the next by Kerubino Kwanyin Bol. These incidents later led to the announcement of a coalition among the three factions forming SPLA United in a conference in Nairobi, Kenya. These dissension incidents have a significance to the study in hand since it will establish the background for arming civilians and hence the challenges of civil disarmament.

Later SPLA had to respond to the criticism, both internal and external, that pointed out lack of democracy. Metelits details these developments:

“As a result of challenges by individuals and international human-rights groups claiming the SPLA was behaving dictatorially, as well as a shift in its ideology, the movement called its first national convention during 1994 in Chukudum, southern Sudan. There, the movement tried to develop a greater grassroots appeal, stating that a new Sudan would henceforth exist and be governed on the basis of equality and justice.

One could say the movement was democratizing. This new Sudan was to include (1) separation of powers; (2) separation of the military from the civil authority; and (3) well-defined, established structures of governance, including a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary. The SPLA seemed to be undergoing tentative steps toward institutionalization” (Metelits, 2004)

Nevertheless, in 1996 the three rebelling factions SPLA United, SSIM and EDF, being aligned to the Government of Sudan (GoS) signed a political charter and established their headquarters in Khartoum. The next year forming a new umbrella for these factions, the South Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF), a peace agreement was signed with the GoS (the Khartoum Peace Agreement). However, within SSDF the EDF remained an independent force until the Juba declaration of 2006 (Metelits, 2004). Under a banner of “Peace from Within” more agreements were signed including: Nuba Mountains and Fashoda agreements.

These agreements ended the conflict between the government and the significant factions. Consequent upon these agreements many of the leaders of these factions moved to Khartoum where they were offered marginal roles in the central government and sometimes collaborated with government in their military engagements against SPLA. In these agreements the terms included granting the South a degree of autonomy and the right for self determination.

Unfortunately these splits had grave consequences as the war break between these factions and the mainline SPLA resulted in the death of civilians estimated as more than those who died as a result of SPLA battles against the government’s army (Johnson, 1998; Jok and Hutchinson, 1999). When eventually SPLA achieved reunification in 2002 one of the main concerns was the problem of control on weapons.

“ ….it was impossible to press forward with disarmament in case one or other of the participating armed groups became alienated in the process. No party was willing to surrender its weapons while the wider war was in progress. With the ceasefire agreement, unskilled, armed youth lost their role as defenders of their communities from external enemies, but maintained possession of their weapons. This marked the beginning of increased fighting between communities along ethnic lines, leading to shifting, often opportunistic, alliances” (Mareike Schomerus 2008).

Although the above quote describes the situation at the time of reunification, the matter of fact was that ethnic fighting and militia ones increased regularly during the civil war and of course arming civilians was necessary.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)[1]

Extended negotiations and mediations between the SPLM and GoS eventually led to a comprehensive peace agreement that was signed on January 9, 2005. The agreement included a number of protocols the most important being protocols of power, wealth and security, and a number of terms which included:

After a six-year interim period the people of the south will go for a referendum to decide whether to have a separate country or continue as part of the Sudan of today.In implementation of the extensive sharing of power, wealth and security a federal system was established in the south and thus there is now the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) though not existing as a parallel to a counterpart in the North.

The power sharing was arranged in a way that a fixed representation of the formerly warring parties in national institutions was achieved. The wealth sharing agreement detailing establishment of central banks, new currency and specific revenue sharing formulas in the oil producing zones including the disputed areas.

As for armed forces the two parties (SPLM & GoS) agreed to have joint integrated units with equal numbers from SPLA and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and both parties to maintain troops in the South and North respectively. This also in effect meant the elimination of any armed forces other than those two. The ceasefire agreement also included a timetable for the demobilization of the SSDF. Most importantly the CPA included a timeline of events that would be undertaken between its signing of the CPA on 9 January 2005 and 2011 when the interim period would end.

SPLM has been facing a number of complex challenges in establishing and running its state in the South. While most of these challenges are vital issues for the purposes of this paper the challenges of armament and militias are priority for discussion. The widespread availability of small arms and light weapons added to the problem of already armed civilians during the war, make peacekeeping and protecting the community hazardous. Post-war violence already materialized, for example, the violent incidents of Yambio and Yizo. In addition there is the threat of militias and the inter-tribal clashes. The following quote illustrates:

“After the signing of the CPA, commissioners in EES and CES were confronted with an array of inter-tribal clashes, made worse by the ubiquity of small arms possession. However, not all tribes are armed, or armed equally. The Bari and some tribes in EES have accumulated fewer weapons than the cattle keepers or other tribes who were armed by the SAF or SPLA to fight as proxy forces during the civil war. Inter-tribal conflicts in EES and CES are innumerable.

The Mundari and Dinka fight each other; the Bari are hostile to the Dinka; and the Bari and Mundari are at odds despite speaking similar languages.51 In Kapoeta, crossborder entanglements involve the Toposa, the Karimojong, and the Turkana, who all speak similar dialects. The Karimojong also have an ongoing quarrel with the Didinga; the Turkana fight the Toposa; and the Toposa are hostile to the Murle” (Mareike Schomerus, 2008)

Other Armed Groups (OAG)

Post-CPA violence occurrence in South Sudan is attributed to the failure of the agreement in addressing many inter-southern sources of conflict. Other Armed Groups (OAG) which are refusing to disband as CPA requires is one main source of hostilities as they still look at SPLA as an enemy. Tribal militias and pastoralist groups fighting over resources and grazing lands is another source (Small Arms Survey, 2006; Young 2006).

Another source of violence is believed to be that some elements within the National Congress Party have supported southern groups resisting SPLA authority (Garfield, 2007). Indeed, “The legacy of government- and rebel-arming of partisan forces in the form of vast stockpiles of small arms and light weapons continues to threaten community safety and curtail freedom of movement” (Garfield, 2007)

Other Armed Group (OAG) refers to all types of militias other than the major armed forces known during the war. However, ‘White Army’ seems to be the most important group and may be the most difficult to disarm. But who are the ‘White Army’? According to a Lou Nuer elder (Arnold & Alder, 2007) “The White Army is not real army and aren’t proper soldiers. Anybody with a gun can claim to be ‘White Army’ soldier. They are just local people who have guns and it’s just name given to gunmen in villages.”

Therefore, the term does not refer to a single coherent army but rather to a group of armed civilians, mainly male youth, from the same residential area. In South Sudan the term refers to the armed civilians of Jonglei and Upper Nile states. Despite being armed civilians, they usually engaged in the normal routines of villagers. Their militant activities are intermittent that happen as cattle raids against neighbors, or banditry. According to Arnold & Alder (2007) most of the time the fighting is between the various constituent groups that make up White Army militias; though, sometimes they temporarily unite to fight larger, commonly identified enemies.

Disarmament in Jonglei

Realizing the hazards of the presence of ‘White Army’ a meeting was held in December 2005 attended by the concerned parties: SPLA, GoSS and representatives from the respective communities. It was agreed in this meeting that disarmament of civilians was necessary especially the ‘White Army’.

Although this was accepted by all parties, when implementation started in January 2006 by the arrival of a SPLA contingent to western Jonglei state, it was ambushed by White Army militias and the battle claimed lives of 300 SPLA soldiers which necessitated the temporary retreat of SPLA (IRN News, August 18, 2006). At the time of this temporary withdrawal from western and central Jonglei state, SPLA carried out a disarmament exercise in Upper Nile state, which was completed without any hostilities.

But fighting between SPLA and White Army militias continued intermittently for several months; then in March and May it reached a peak in central Jongli where 3,000 SPLA soldiers carried out forceful disarmament in Yuai. This forceful disarmament resulted in extensive combat of SPLA and White Army militias. The fighting eventually stopped when the militia retreated northwards after running out of ammunition and significant losses.

During the fight the local community was harmed by both sides: the White Army militia stripped them from their belongings and SPLA burnt hundred of huts though selectively by choosing the huts of White Army members resisting them. On the other hand disarmament in eastern Jonglei state, around the town of Akobo in July 2006 was achieved peacefully by SPLA and its partners.

The success here was mainly attributed to the efforts of the County Commissioner of Akobo County. Initially he announced a period of voluntarily disarmament asking the community members to hand in their arms during 15th – 30th, after which they could forcefully be disarmed by the SPLA forces. He also suggested that SPLA uses smaller dispersed forces instead of the large forces used in central Jonglei in order to encourage a voluntary disarmament, lessen the tension and to relief the local community from the burden of feeding large troops.

About 12 or more ‘disarmament posts’ manned by a group of 10 SPLA soldiers assisted by armed civilians received the guns of the community members in the vicinity. The operation was further supported by the technical and logistical support of UN through UNDP and DDR. Monitoring of the situation was facilitated by UNMIS military observers and Force Protection soldiers. White Army members were motivated by the incentive provided by UNDP which offered compensation for each gun turned over. The compensation was a packet of goods.

Although SPLA made it one of the security priorities to disarm the major concentrations of heavily armed civilians in the south, i.e. White Army militias in Upper Nile and Jonglei states, it had not expected a 100% disarmament. Its strategy was to end attacks similar to that of Ulang and Sobat communities in March and April 2006. It expected to disarm the majority and only a few groups of 10 – 15 people to remain. These would be disarmed later by SPLA bush patrols (Arnold & Alder, 2007).

However, what motivated SPLA to prioritize civilian disarmament? Although a conclusive answer is not available, its decision seems to have been affected by a number of factors. A justification showing the concern of SPLA about the people of the south has been pronounced regularly that ‘our people are killing one another’ and therefore disarmament is vital. Our people are killing one another “…largely referred to conflict between the Lou Nuer and their neighbours during the course of their dry season migrations, but since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement it also included endemic clan-based fighting among the Dinka of the Lakes District, Murle cattle rustling and a number of other local conflicts” (Young, 2007).

It was also necessary for the SPLA to make all the parties including the international community to accept that only its army should bear weapons. This was necessary since it came to power through a peace agreement and not a military victory. Thirdly the SPLA was aware and concerned about the extent of SAF’s influence, infiltration, and control on some armed groups in the south. This type of groups was considered ‘fifth columnist’ and therefore should be eliminated. The fourth reason which I regard the most important is illustrated in the following quote:

“Fourth, all of this reasoning provided the backdrop for SPLM/A preparations for what is widely held to be a definitive struggle with the SAF in the northern and oil-producing borderlands where the national army is increasingly taking up positions. And before the SPLA is prepared to confront this challenge, it has to ensure the security of its territory and eliminate elements that may be under the influence and direction of the SAF. But if these are reasons that would inform the thinking of SPLM/A strategists, it does not deny that during the course of the fighting in Jonglei other factors may have come into play, such as tribalism, the desire for revenge, and local power struggles” (Young, 2007)

Lessons Learned from Jongli Disarmament Exercises

Since disarmament of civilians is intended for restoring peaceful environment and restoring a governance system whether it is the traditional tribal chief system or the modern government institutions, it is not enough to look at civilian disarmament as a simple cleaning operation aimed at collecting the weapons. It is also essential to consider the outcomes of Jonglei state disarmament exercises whether the violent disastrous one in the central or the peaceful successful one in Eastern region.

Cultural factors that are regarded as deeper attributes to the eruption of conflicts and violence should be analyzed carefully. For example in Neur communities which are mainly semi-nomadic pastoral communities violent activities are rooted in the culture. Indeed, “the ‘normality’ of cattle raiding in South Sudan as a key facet of the socio-economic system there and related to it, a propensity to engage in blood feuds between clans and sub-clans after homicides and other transgressions occur” (Arnold & Alden, 2007). However, the cultural practice which was of limited extent and had its solutions in the tribal chiefs’ system, has been affected by the civil war and has grown into larger scopes and increased frequencies.

I do apologize for sending this order incomplete

[1] The data under this heading is summarized from a number of CPA documents