Sudan: In Need of Review - SPLA Transformation in 2006-10 and Beyond


The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is striving to transform itself from a guerrilla insurgency into an affordable, professional, and disciplined army operating under the civilian control of either the Government of Southern Sudan or, at an appropriate future date, as part of a national army under a government of national unity or its unified successor.

This new Working Paper reviews the successes and shortcomings of the SPLA's defence transformation process to date, measured against milestones laid out in the SPLA White Paper on Defense (2008). It reviews the related decisions, events, processes, programmes, and doctrine, including the positive and negative effects of international assistance programmes and the prospects for 'right-sizing' the force.

Key findings include the following:

- The lack of a coherent SPLA defence strategy is frustrating high-level support for transformation. A comprehensive analysis of SPLA capabilities is required, not only as part of an overarching defence review, but also to guide future transformation initiatives.

- The SPLA leadership's preoccupation with the possibility of renewed North-South conflict is its primary motivation for strengthening the armed forces. This war mentality is unlikely to change until the referendum on Southern self-determination is successfully navigated.

- The challenges posed by the integration of the Other Armed Groups (OAGs) present the largest threat to the cohesion and effectiveness of the SPLA. Future transformation parameters must be informed by a thorough understanding of OAG integration issues.

- The SPLA faces multiple short-term challenges, including problems regarding accountability, logistics, and sustainment; a lack of mobility; poor tactical communications; urgent training and new equipment needs; and insufficient funds to support development.

- Until the Ministry of SPLA Affairs actively supports defence management-rather than serving solely as an 'accountability' mechanism-its rivalry and conflict with the SPLA will continue. The current antagonistic relationship has hindered the development of effective democratic civil governance and oversight procedures.

- DDR has not had any effect on defence transformation. There is a need for a radical rethink if right-sizing, requiring demobilization, is to be attractive and viable.

'In Need of Review: SPLA Transformation in 2006-10 and Beyond' is the 23rd Working Paper from the Small Arms Survey's Sudan HSBA. The HSBA generates and disseminates timely, empirical research on small arms, armed violence, and insecurity in Sudan.