The Politics of Numbers

On Security Sector Reform in South Sudan, 2005–2020

New report from the Centre for Public Authority and International Development

The peace agreement has already effectively collapsed, and an elite-level power sharing agreement in Juba can only satisfy precisely those elites


The Politics of Numbers: On Security Sector Reform in South Sudan, 2005-2020 is the first comprehensive study of what has happened to South Sudan's military forces since the end of the Sudanese second civil war in 2005. Based on extensive fieldwork in the country, the report argues that all of the international community's efforts to create a unified armed forces in South Sudan have paradoxically only escalated the process of fracturing that led to the current civil war.

Through a rigorous analysis of the current military situation in South Sudan, the report shows that the current peace process has not brought about peace, but the intensification of a war economy based on predation and increasingly ethnicized military forces. Peace, this report argues, is not the opposite of war, but merely one of its modes.

Read the report The Politics of Numbers.

Key findings

  • The Security Sector Reform (SSR) process of the current South Sudanese peace agreement (R-ARCSS) was based on normative models of liberal internationalism that were totally inappropriate to a South Sudanese context.
  • While the SSR process was supposed to create a unified national army, it has instead created a more divided, more fractured, military landscape in South Sudan.
  • The South Sudanese government has used the SSR process to divide the opposition, by using its resources to create defections. While the international community has been focused on the creation of a national army, the government has built up mono-ethnic military forces under the auspices of the National Security Service and Military Intelligence. It is these mono-ethnic militias, integrated into a kleptocratic state, that are now the most powerful military forces in the country.
  • The main opposition in South Sudan, the SPLA-IO, has used the SSR process to try and reconstitute its authority over military forces decimated and fragmented by clashes with the government in 2018. It has done so in the manner of a pyramid scheme: by using the promises of ranks and wages to lure recruits into cantonment sites. However, unlike during the CPA-period (2005-13), there is no oil money available for the national army, and these soldiers are likely to not have their expectations met, further fracturing the military landscape in South Sudan.
  • The current peace agreement had led to a transitional government in South Sudan that has radicalised the split between Juba and the rest of the country. The SPLA-IO in power are effectively under house-arrest: dependent on government largesse to survive, they have little in the way of military support, and effectively only provide a patina of legitimacy for the government in Juba.
  • The government in Juba now effectively functions as a new Khartoum: it is a predatory political centre that derives its power from external resources and networks of beneficiaries in positions of power around the country.
  • The peace agreement has already effectively collapsed: an elite-level power sharing agreement in Juba can only satisfy precisely those elites. Those populations marginalised and attacked by Juba over the last twenty years cannot be subsumed into a peace agreement that has Juba as its means and telos: for it is Juba, and the government, that is precisely the problem for these populations.

 Read the report The Politics of Numbers.