Monday, September 2, 2013

Security Challenges in South Sudan

A post based on my article on the military reform in South Sudan (article cane be viewed here : ). So if you don't want to read 20 pg article, this is a good substitute. It is also published on .

As the second anniversary of South Sudan’s independence passed on 9 July, the world turned to examine the successes and failures of the new country. Although there are many areas that South Sudan urgently needs to reform, fix or build, the most pressing area is security sector reform (SSR), in particular military reform. The hope is that thanks to SSR, there will be an increase in security and stability in the country, which is needed before tackling areas such as development, infrastructure or social services. Consequently, the main objective of the new nation is to professionalize its over-sized army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

The SPLA is largely made up of guerilla fighters, a holdover from the civil war. Due to the mentality of guerrilla fighters, the lack of professional training and hard life, it is not surprising that many SPLA soldiers have been accused of human rights violations. Indeed, in January 2013 Human Rights Watch noted that in a March 2012 disarmament operation in Jonglei SPLA soldiers took part in “extrajudicial killings, severe beatings, tying people up with rope, and submerging their heads in water to extract information about the location of weapons,” and in “sexual violence against women and girls.” Moreover, since the police force currently lacks the capacity to manage internal affairs, the SPLA is often deployed to deal with internal matters during which they use disproportionate force against civilians.

Thus one of the biggest threats to internal security in South Sudan is the SPLA itself. Although the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and other external partners provide training courses on human rights, they will not have the desired effect if the soldiers themselves do not have any respect for human life. In order to combat human rights abuses, the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs should be put in charge of ensuring SPLA soldiers go through psychological testing in order to make sure that they are mentally fit for military duty. The ones that are deemed unfit should not be passed down to other security services, such the police force, since that will foster further insecurity. Instead, soldiers deemed unfit for duty should be included in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process, which will allow them to build healthy relationships with the community. In addition, DDR will ensure ex-​combatants contribute productively to their communities and provide a disincentive to becoming a militia again.

Starting from the top is not feasible as the SPLA wields a great amount of power over politics, as demonstrated by recent salary increases during harsh economic times. Indeed, any reduction in the size of the SPLA is unlikely to be welcomed by the organization. Consequently, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) needs to appoint officials that would be truly dedicated to the reconstruction of the SPLA.

Military reform in post-​conflict countries is always complicated. However, in order to create a strong state, all security issues need to be addressed before any real steps can be taken to tackle other areas.

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