Informal armies: community defence groups in South Sudan’s civil war

As South Sudan’s civil war enters its fourth year, Saferworld’s most recent publication explores one aspect of the current crisis: the mobilisation and transformation of the country’s many ‘informal armies’. Community defence groups have long played an important background role in South Sudan’s security scene, as protectors, makeshift defence units and sometime aggressors. In the current climate, many of these groups have again come to the fore. Some have been brought into the centre of the national conflict. This publication provides perspectives from leading analysts and scholars on the dilemmas groups raise for security provision, the South Sudanese state and peacebuilding nationally. It reviews three of the most significant actors – the arrow boys, gelweng and the White Armies – from the ground up, highlighting the need for local peace and security engagement to be based on a better understanding of their diverse roles and histories.

Informal armies: community defence groups in South Sudan’s civil war includes chapters by Jok Madut Jok, Mareike Schomerus and Charles Taban, Luka Biong Deng Kuol, and Ingrid Marie Breidlid and Michael J. Arensen.

The report is edited by Victoria Brereton.

Download the publication.

“Community defence groups pose critical policy dilemmas for South Sudan’s fledgling state – incorporate, disband or transform them? To ignore them, as this report makes clear, is not a viable option.”

Paul Murphy