Articles and Analysies
The Looming Anarchy in South Sudan By: Deng Yiech Bachech Deng
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Apr 30, 2009 - 10:54:57 AM

The Looming Anarchy in South Sudan

By: Deng Yiech Bachech Deng


The events and circumstances prevailing in Southern Sudan are depressing. They make the destiny of people’s future uncertain. Regardless of the relative peace that people now enjoy because there is no actual war, it doesn’t mean we are at a complete peace. Look at the increasing lawlessness, skyrocketed corruption and unemployment everywhere in the country.

These are the clear signs of anarchy. All these happenings happen because the central government in Juba is institutionally weak and unable to govern. The downtrodden—the poor—become prey to heartless, incompetent, corrupt and ineffectual politicians in the governments who pretend they are there to serve people’s interests. People’s homes in any states are bulldozed in the name of city planning and urban infrastructure development. While in reality, the displaced poor aren’t compensated nor issued prior warning or notification to prepare themselves for safe relocation or transition before their homes are demolished.

Oil companies operating in southern oilfields do anything at their disposal to exploit resources without being regulated by the government because some kleptomaniac ministers are bribed by those companies. Disappointedly, the government has no environmental laws, policies and regulations that would put pressure on oil companies to observe compliance with environmental sustainability principles. As such, these foreign oil companies don’t abide by any strict environmental ethics and corporate social responsibility stipulated in their environmental management systems and policies as required in their own countries to comply with best environmental practices.

This noncompliance in South Sudan poses great harm to the environment and public health. The consequences are that the land, air, surface and underground waters are polluted because of toxic chemical releases which adversely affect the environment and general public.

Other important issues are the existing and growing tribal conflicts and violence across all states. According to Thomas Homer-Dixon of the University of Toronto, understanding a country’s cultural and political reality is one sure step towards understanding an upsurge in ethnic clash, environmental scarcity, and geographic composition. He says, “as environmental degradation proceeds, the size of the potential social disruption will increase… [and that] the environmental scarcity inflames existing hatreds and affects power relationships” between communities.

The key causes for tribal conflicts and violence are again attributed to lack of government control and power to provide security and protection to the people. The sad reality is, the field commanders in the South Sudan defense forces (the SPLA) do have their own private armed militias which are privately funded, while the rest of  the whole national army are left to struggle for their own survival whether that would mean looting civilian resources at gunpoint or not. 

Therefore, in a semiautonomous nation like ours that has a history of ethnic disparities, warlordism, mistrust and weak central authority, everything is anarchic. The communal societies find liberty and security only by putting laws into their own hands.

Martin van Creveld in his “Transformation of War”, while writing about the wars in Europe, states, “In all these struggles political, social, economic, and religious motives were hopelessly entangled. Since that age when armies consisted of mercenaries, all were also attended by swarms of military entrepreneurs…Many of them paid little but lip service to the organizations for whom they had contracted to fight. Instead, they robbed the countryside on their own behalf… given such conditions, any fine distinctions …between armies on the one hand and peoples on the other were bound to break down. Engulfed by war, civilians suffered terrible atrocities.”

Looking back at the history of the SPLA/M during the liberation struggle, our soldiers were oriented differently unlike other liberation movements in East Africa. For example, when the Uganda‘s National Resistance Army of Yoweri Museveni took power in January 1986, the liberation soldiers never looted any shops in Kampala; and the same goes with Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front of Meles Zenawi. The culture of looting is imbedded in SPLA’s history and thus making the transformation of soldiers’ mindset from guerrilla mentality to civil mentality very difficult.

The final comment that I want to make is on our quest to adopt democratic ideals that are foreign to the way we traditionally govern ourselves. One element of democratic ideals that the West believes and tragically urges Africans to implement for a successful democratization of African continent is the conduct of periodic elections through multiparty system. Unfortunately, I fear, what works in the West can’t be assumed to work in Africa because election rather ignites and revitalizes old ethnic hatreds and tensions.

I agree with Yoweri Museveni when he says, “I happen to be one of those people who do not believe in multiparty democracy…in fact, I am totally opposed to it as far as Africa today is concerned….if one forms a multiparty system in Uganda, a party cannot win elections unless it finds a way of dividing the ninety-four percent of electorate [that consists of peasants], and this is where the main problem comes up: tribalism, religion, or regionalism becomes the basis for intense partisanship.”

Here I am not advocating for SPLM that’s now a ruling party to continue governing us. All that I am saying, let’s look for other alternatives for a government system that works and truly consistent with African culture. Because if we adopt a system—a Western copycat—that has no historical, political and cultural foundation in Africa to start with, we will end up in perpetual wars for posterity.

For instance, we have more than ten political parties in the south advocating for democracy, rule of law, freedom, equality and what have you. But in reality these parties have their 80 percent of supporters respectively from their tribal constituencies. The SPLM party is the only political party that’s ethnically diverse in form and substance from its inception until it recently degenerated into a one-tribe’s commodity.

In closing, I am envisioning a total collapse of our semiautonomous state due to looming anarchy that we have witnessed so far. What can we do to stop this catastrophic sign of “somalization” of the South Sudan? It’s a drastic change of current government one may say. But how? Will it be through elections or civil uprisings with military backing? I don’t know. Be the judge!

The author holds a BA Honors in Political Science ( University of Saskatchewan) and a Masters of Science student in Sustainable Energy Development ( University of Calgary), Canada. He can be reached at

[email protected]



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