Social Dynamics/Conflict in Greater Bor
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Since the establishment of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), Greater Bor has been a pivotal region for political developments in Juba - where power in the capital was often bred in the Greater Bor region. Likewise, the current socio-political dynamics in Bor can be seen to have their origins in the history of the SPLA.
The 2013 -2015 conflict in the Greater Bor region stemmed from a multitude of factors. One of which is polarizing political rhetoric from Juba. Politicians from Bor South like Kuol Manyang and Michael Makuei were (and still are) staunch allies of president Kiir increasing tensions with Juba Politicians originally from Twic East. Mabior Garang de Mabior the son of the late Dr. John Garang joined the IO, while his mother Rebecca Nyandeng (the wife Garang) and former Deputy Minister of defense Majak D’ Ajoot allied themselves to the Former Detainees. It is also notable that during the conflict the white army marched through areas of Duk and Twic East County leaving it (apart from an area in Duk) mostly untouched on the way to Bor Town where there was heavy fighting between the SPLA- IO and the SPLA.
While local grievances like cattle raiding and child abduction remain drivers of conflict, so too are the deep grievances between politicians in the counties of Bor South, Twic East and Duk. Local level politicians in Twic and Duk feel marginalized and underrepresented when compared to the larger and more influential Bor South. In addition, the implications of Kiir’s 28 state decree is a significant point of concern. The feelings of the population in the counties however, is less hostile. Years of intermarriage between the Duk Dinka and the Gawaar Nuer of Ayod for example have created a semblance of peace.
An additional dimension explored in this research is the Bor Protection of Civilians (POC) site and the movement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) - largely Dinka- to the town of Mingkaman in Lakes state, which in turn impacts the social dynamics in Lakes state.
The current social and conflict dynamic in the greater Bor region is an important aspect when looking at South Sudan’s history of conflict. Understanding some of the dynamics on the ground can help develop a more nuanced interpretation of an often politicized narrative about ethnic and political relations.
The purpose of this report is to explore the social dynamics and conflicts in and around Greater Bor, namely the three areas of Bor, Twic East and Duk. It will attempt to provide some nuance and context to the localized conflicts in the area, examine the key stakeholders, and chart important relationships between Greater Bor and the political elite in Juba. It will also explore the national implications of localized political conflict in Greater Bor.
Jonglei state was a pivotal part of South Sudan’s fight against Khartoum from 1983 until 2005, as well as in the civil war from 2013 to 2015. Within Jonglei state, the region of Greater Bor – encompassing Bor South, Twic East and Duk counties – has historically been one of the most politically active and most important areas of South Sudan. Greater Upper Nile and specifically Jonglei was the first front for the SPLA during the second civil war, Greater Equatoria the second, and Greater Bar el Ghazal the third and final front1. Thus within this region the Bor Dinka were integral to the young nation’s politics. Apart from John Garang – A native of Twic East – the region also produced leaders like Abel Alier who led the Southern Sudan autonomous region from 1972 till 1978. Alier was instrumental in the Addis Ababa agreement of 1972 that gave Southern Sudan more autonomy, and although he never joined the SPLA, he is a highly respected figure in South Sudan’s, and Jonglei’s history.
From the Bor mutiny in 1983, to the Bor massacre in 1991 and to the fighting that occurred in 2013 between the SPLA and the SPLA-IO, Bor has always been a key strategic city South Sudan’s conflicts. At the same time, Bor has played an important role in national level politics. The political leadership in Bor has recently politically shunned the counties of Twic East and Duk, causing the population to feel marginalized, and underrepresented. These feelings of marginalization have recently been cause for concern, and ultimately resentment as Duk and Twic county populations feel they won’t benefit from any economic initiatives.2
This report is based on qualitative research done in Juba, Bor, Twic East and Mingkaman in Lakes State in June of 2016. Aspects of the research may be accompanied by data the author collated when in South Sudan in a different capacity in 2015 and early 2016. The methodology used was mainly informant interviews, but also interviews with community leaders, local government officials, the NGO community and the UN. These interviews were held between the 9th and 23rd of June 2016. Interviews were also planned for Duk County, but due to the state of the road from Panyagor in Twic East to Poktap, access to Duk County was impossible.
Unless the interviewees had no objection to the author using their names in the report, the names of the interviewees have been withheld due to the politically sensitive nature of the subject matter. Background and contextual information has been supplemented by news reports and academic articles. This report does not purport to be an all-inclusive overview of all the historical grievances in the Greater Bor region, but an overview of conflict and social dynamics in June 2016.