Informal armies: community defence groups in South Sudan's civil war

Research reports and studies
March 2017
Jok Madut Jok, Mareike Schomerus, Charles Taban, Luka Biong Deng Kuol, Ingrid Marie Breidlid and Michael J. Arensen

As South Sudan’s civil war enters its fourth year, Saferworld’s most recent publication explores one aspect of the current crisis: the mobilisation and transformation of the country’s many ‘informal armies’.

Community defence groups have long played an important background role in South Sudan’s security scene, as protectors, makeshift defence units and sometime aggressors. In the current climate, many of these groups have again come to the fore. Some have been brought into the centre of the national conflict.

This report provides perspectives from leading analysts and scholars on the dilemmas groups raise for security provision, the South Sudanese state and peacebuilding nationally. It reviews three of the most significant actors – the Arrow Boys, Gelweng and the White Armies – from the ground up, highlighting the need for local peace and security engagement to be based on a better understanding of their diverse roles and histories.