“Like the military of the village”: Security, justice and community defence groups in south-east South Sudan (Summary Briefing)

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In much of the world, security and justice are mostly provided not by formal bodies, such as state police services or judiciaries, but by informal, non-state actors. Meanwhile, international donors invest millions of dollars in funding to reform and strengthen security and justice provision in conflict-affected and fragile contexts.

To be relevant and effective, such support must be informed by an understanding of which actors and institutions are actually fulfilling security and justice functions. Critically important is the extent to which they are considered to be effective, legitimate and accountable by the people they purport to serve.

This briefing examines how state and non-state institutions (including armed community defence groups) interact in their responses to different types of violence and insecurity in Torit and Kapoeta, in what was formerly known as Eastern Equatoria, in south-east South Sudan. It focuses on violence and insecurity related to South Sudan’s civil war, intercommunal conflict and gendered violence. The findings, conclusions and recommendations of this briefing, albeit focused on specific research locations, are meant to stimulate debate and inform renewed efforts to improve people’s security and access to justice in South Sudan, as well as to inform wider policy and practice around engaging with plural and hybrid security and justice systems. This briefing is drawn from a detailed report of the same name.

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