Written by Naomi Pendle

Politics, prophets and armed mobilizations: competition and continuity over registers of authority in South Sudan’s conflicts

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Spiritual and divine authorities play a prominent role in mobilizing armed violence. This article provides a micro-history of a contemporary Nuer prophetess (guan kuoth) in South Sudan who mobilized hundreds of armed men including in support of current anti-government rebellions. The article grapples with apparent paradoxes in her approach to kume (a broadly defined notion…

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Speaking Truth To Power in South Sudan: Oral histories of the Nuer prophets

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Prophets—those recognised as having been ‘seized’ by a divinity—have played an important role in the history of South Sudan, particularly that of the Nuer people. They were seen as being powerful political actors and, alongside chiefs, important intermediaries for the colonial authorities. However, the influence of the Nuer prophets goes much further than mobilizing or…

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Wartime Trade and the Reshaping of Power in South Sudan: Learning from the Market of Mayen Rual

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During war, geographies of economic and political power are often recast by shifting patterns of trade and population movements. This can present an opportunity for local leaders to reshape legal and moral logics to attract trade and people to areas under their control. But these shifts can also create ambiguities and tensions that extend into…

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The Roots of Restraint in War

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The Roots of Restraint in War is an update of the 2004 Roots of Behaviour in War. Based on two years of research collaboration between the ICRC and six distinguished scholars, the report identifies sources of influence on various types of armed forces and armed groups, ranging from those with a highly decentralized structure to…

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Famine, Access and Conflict Sensitivity: What opportunities do livestock offer in South Sudan?

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This report that discusses opportunities provided by livestock in South Sudan referring to famine, access and conflict sensitivity is based on research conducted by Naomi Pendle and the Conflict Sensitivity Resource Facility (CSRF) in 2017. The research was funded by the UK, Swiss, and Canadian Donor Missions in South Sudan.

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Community Security and Justice under United Nations Governance: Lessons from Chiefs’ Courts in South Sudan’s Protection of Civilians Sites

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This article examines the public authority of chiefs’ courts within the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Protection of Civilians Sites (PoCs). After December 2013, UNMISS peacekeepers opened the gates of their bases to around 200,000 civilians fleeing war. This unintentionally created a legal and political anomaly. Over time, conflicts and crimes rose within…

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“The dead are just to drink from”: recycling ideas of revenge amongst the western Dinka, South Sudan

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Governments in South Sudan have long built their authority on their ability to fashion changing regimes of revenge and compensation, war and peace. Governments’ capture of these regimes has resulted in the secularisation of compensation despite the ongoing spiritual consequences of lethal violence. This article explores these issues by focusing on the western Dinka of…

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Contesting the Militarization of the Places Where They Met: the Landscapes of the Western Nuer and Dinka (South Sudan)

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Decades of militarized, violent conflict and elite wealth acquisition have created a common rupture in shared landscapes between communities of the western Dinka and Nuer (South Sudan). Through the remaking of these landscapes, governments and their wars have indirectly reshaped political identities and relationships. Networks of complex relationships have used this space for migration, marriage,…

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Customary Protection? Chiefs’ courts as public authority in UN Protection of Civilian sites in South Sudan

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This paper examines the initiatives of people living in PoC sites – functionally, internally displaced people (IDPs) – to invigorate their own authority structures and security and justice mechanisms. In particular, we focus upon the practices of customary chiefs’ courts. Download

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