Post-Conflict Criminality and Peacebuilding in South Sudan

Post-Conflict Criminality and Peacebuilding in South Sudan

This week we have been greeted by another headline implicating South Sudanese officials in the plundering of billions from state coffers. This comes as no surprise to some. Post-conflict societies are often marred by a breakdown of law and order, resulting in the proliferation of many and varied forms of criminal activity including corruption. Such criminal activities are often serious in nature and tend to have adverse impact either on the well being of individuals or on society at large.  They endanger the human security of the population and pose serious threat to the establishment of post-conflict peace and order; jeopardize economic, legal, and political reform efforts; and threaten to undermine public trust in nascent criminal justice institutions.

According to the United States Department of State Bureau for Diplomatic Security’s 2012 Crime and Safety Report for South Sudan: “on a rating scale of low, medium, high, and critical, South Sudan is rated “critical” for crime”[1]. According to Nation Master (which looks at crime statistics in different countries around the world) aside from regular petty crime like pick pockets, people in South Sudan face aggressive crime threats that could result in ‘The problem of criminality’[2]. This is not unique to South Sudan, nor is it something that is fundamentally new in post-conflict societies. Even in relatively stable African countries crime rates are relatively high. The situation in South Sudan cannot, therefore, be expected to be markedly different. However, what has made criminality in South Sudan a source of serious concern is its worrisome increase and it’s potential to undermine the fragile peace, post- conflict peace-building and human security of the South Sudanese.

Today, there is an increasing realization among policy makers and security-development practitioners that criminality can have a profoundly destabilizing impact on a post-conflict societies like the South Sudan – since it endangers all dimensions of human security and poses a threat to peace-building efforts and post-conflict stability.  This realization gives rise to two critical questions: To what extent can the neglect of post-conflict criminality in peace-building interventions in South Sudan threaten efforts aimed at reaching durable peace and stability? How might alternative approaches to peace-building, based upon the well-being and welfare of the people, promote a more sustainable and inclusive form of peace in South Sudan?

These questions allude to a core concern regarding peace-building in South Sudan: the limitations of existing interventions and the need for greater emphasis upon human security and human development of South Sudanese. This piece seeks to provide some answers to the above questions. It departs from a premise that criminality is not caused by one know factor; but by a number of interconnected factors and its nature and scope differs from one area to another and affects different people and communities differently. To this end, if it is not holistically addressed through preventative (not reactionary), people-centered, comprehensive and multi-dimensional, inter-sectoral and context-specific policy measures; it might continue to pose itself as an insidious threat to the security of communities and individuals.

Criminality represents a threat to the establishment of post-conflict peace, order, and the general security of the population and greatly hinders economic, legal, and political reform efforts. Criminality is undermining human security and threatening post-conflict peace-building and sstability in South Sudan. Peace-building interventions at the moment are not holistic enough, people centred, multi-dimensional, context specific, long term nor preventative. Criminality will continue to flourish and the rule of law will be adversely affected if drastic and effective measures are not taken to address these challenges. The increasing levels of criminality in South Sudan are also threatening the human security of South Sudanese. This is so because; peace-building interventions neglect issues of criminality in their programme design and implementation.  This shortcoming makes them unsustainable and exclusive, neither wholly effective nor contributing to inclusive and self-sustaining peace.

It is argued here that, peace-building interventions provide a good opportunity to holistically address problems associated with criminality. More so, peace-building can enable policy makers to infuse people-centred perspectives to policymaking so that governance of security could bear much resemblance to the security needs of the people-including women and children. Understanding and analyzing the cause and patterns of criminality in a post-conflict setting might help policy makers to identify inter-sectoral intervention programmes (such as small arms control) that might have been, under normal circumstances, seen as irrelevant and not deserving urgent policy attention.

More emphasis should not only be placed on institutional reforms and economic issues, but also on other equally important imperatives, such as building the capacity of the state to guarantee and protect human security of the South Sudanese. A renewed emphasis should be placed on human security and other equally important imperatives such as social and economic imperatives. The South Sudanese government and the international community need to look at issues of security other than state security.


[1] This report is available at https://www.osac.gov/Pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=12048 (accessed, 05 May 2012)

[2] Nation Master crime statistics is accessible at http://www.nationmaster.com/cat/cri-crime

Thembani Mbadlanyana

Thembani Mbadlanyana is a Researcher in the Corruption and Governance Programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

One Response to Post-Conflict Criminality and Peacebuilding in South Sudan

  1. Thanks for this Thembani. Enjoyed reading especially on the criminality side of post-conflict societies which I admittedly have not read much on. Loved the para “More emphasis should not only be placed on institutional reforms and economic issues, but also on other equally important imperatives, such as building the capacity of the state to guarantee and protect human security of the South Sudanese.” And I agree. Great piece!

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