Politics, Power and Chiefship in Famine and War: A study of the former Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state, South Sudan

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South Sudan’s civil war has spread across the country, fuelling economic collapse and food shortages, and sending millions of residents fleeing across its borders. Although the former Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State has escaped the worst excesses of the current conflict—in part because it is a supposed heartland of South Sudan’s ruling politicalmilitary elites—it is also deeply affected by, and embedded in, the current war. Politics, power and chiefship in famine and war investigates how customary authorities on South Sudan’s border with southern Darfur have managed repeated wars and famines since the 1960s, both for the communities that they claim to represent and for their own survival and benefit. It sets out chiefs’ and elders’ experience of negotiating successive states, rebel movements and local militias during times of famine, flight and fighting, concluding that chiefs and other customary authorities are a fundamental part of the political-military structures of power in South Sudan.

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Nicki Kindersley

Ms. Kindersley is researcher and research manager at the British Council in South Sudan.

Ms Kindersley completed her PhD at Durham University on the political activity of Southern Sudanese residents in Khartoum, 1969-2013, based on research conducted with returned ‘IDPs’ from Khartoum in rural Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Aweil, and Juba.

The PhD thesis is a history of alternative South Sudanese political thought, debate, and resistance/rebel activity in Khartoum during the second civil war. The focus is on the nation-building and nationalism work within Southern communities’ own “civil society”: the local self-taught educators and community organisers, running nationalist civic education programmes, youth work and cultural activities – without NGO intervention – in the face of Sudan state violence and community displacement.

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