Peace and politics in South Sudan

CPAID comics series


The researchers drew on ideas of public authority to explore whether these peace meetings were producing outcomes for people that were inclusive or exclusive.

Dr Naomi Pendle


View the comic here or scroll down below.

As part of a series of six comics on public authority in different countries across Africa, South Sudanese cartoonist and comic artist Tom Dai has illustrated CPAID’s research on issues of public authority and peace-making in South Sudan. Based on real events, the comic explores what repetitive peace meetings mean for peace and public authority in the country.

Peace meetings as a tool for cementing authority

In 2018, a peace deal between the South Sudan government and the largest armed opposition group ended five years of war between them. By 2018, 400,000 South Sudanese had died as a result of direct violence or because of the consequences of war, such as malnutrition and lack of health access. A further 4 million South Sudanese had fled the country.

While the 2018 peace deal brought hope that conflict would stop, incidents of armed conflict continued. These ongoing conflicts have often been framed as local disputes and, in response, local governments, NGOs and other local actors have initiated local peace meetings to negotiate between parties. These meetings often map onto recent histories of repetitive peace meetings at the local level.

The research and this cartoon focused on the consequences of repetitive peace-making. While these meetings have the potential to restrain violence and predatory authority, the cartoon also explores how they can cement exclusive, authoritarian and militarised authority. In particular, the cartoon explores how actors from the hakuma (the government in a broad sense, including both the South Sudan government and armed opposition) have used peace meetings to cement their authority and suppress opposition.

Research for this cartoon was conducted by Dr Naomi Pendle at the LSE Centre for Public Authority and International Development based at the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa.

Learn more

The cartoon draws on ethnographic research in a region of South Sudan that has experienced various episodes of armed conflict over the last four decades. The region not only has a long history of peace meetings, but since 2005 there has been nine such meetings, which were regular events.

The researchers drew on ideas of public authority to explore whether these peace meetings were producing outcomes for people that were inclusive or exclusive. While some peace meetings were considered to bring peace, South Sudanese respondents during fieldwork also highlighted how this was not always the case. In one meeting, a female participant compared the peace meeting to a bad marriage; even if a husband beat his wife, the woman still had to lay in a bed with him at night. Even when actors of the hakuma were cruel to civilians, people still had to sit with them at these meetings, even if nothing would change. Peace meetings for some were a comfort and a chance to 'vomit truth', but they brought nothing further.

During research in this region, a man seized by a war spirit was acting beyond the control of the hakuma. Many people supported him as they believed the man was projecting their views better than the government and he wanted to hold government actors accountable for their actions. Peace meetings were used to criminalise the behaviour of the war spirit and became a space for the hakuma to assert that they could target him legitimately. In other peace meetings, the hakuma  asserted new procedures and forms of justice that helped the hakuma assert its control over the justice process itself.

However, for peace, many people needed healing and a settling of grievances for those who had been killed. The conflicts carried spiritual consequences, and these were not resolved by the peace meetings or by the hakuma’s judicial mechanisms. People did not believe this was a real peace and many instead thought that making peace was not the aim. Instead, they saw peace meetings as a way to entrench the authority of certain hakuma.








This comic was created by Cartoon Movement, a publishing platform for high quality editorial cartoons and comics journalism from all over the globe.