South Sudan

Voices on the Conflict in Malakal

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From August-October 2021, a field study was conducted in the context of human security considerations in the anticipated reclassification of the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, South Sudan.

The aim was to understand the perspectives of the various communities of Malakal as well as other key stakeholders at the grassroots- and political levels on how peace and normalization can be restored so that displaced persons can return home. Eventually, the research focused more on the human security aspect in relation to a resolution of the conflict in Malakal rather than simply the PoC transition.

The conflicts of 2013 and 2016 resulted in the displacement of most of the citizens of Malakal town and nearby villages in the Upper Nile area of South Sudan. Some fled to neighboring countries and some were displaced within the territory of the state, in particular the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site located approximately 6 kilometers north-east of Malakal town. Serious rifts were created between ethnic communities that had lived together and inter-married for centuries, in particular the Shilluk, Dinka and Nuer. The main contention stands between the Shilluk and the Padang Dinka who both claim ownership of a strip of land located on the right-hand side of the Nile River going downstream, as well as a stretch found on both sides of the Sobat River. This contested area includes Malakal town.

This research reveals causes and drivers of the conflict in Malakal, which center around land contestation, tribalism and political manipulation. It was undertaken under theThe Power of Voices project funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Netherlands and within the future framework of PAX accompaniment to the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) Action Plan for Peace (APP), a program aimed at improving community security and social cohesion by supporting the Church in its work towards a sustainable national reconciliation and an enduring national political settlement in South Sudan.