University of Sussex
Watson, Daniel Christopher.pdf (2.08 MB)

Militarised post-conflict statebuilding: explaining South Sudan’s war-to-war transition

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posted on 2023-06-09, 04:22 authored by Dan Watson
South Sudan’s recent war-to-war transition, and its post-conflict statebuilding experience prior to renewed mass violence beginning in December 2013, has upended conventional wisdom on post-conflict peacemaking. Analysts have been left scrambling to explain the apparent implosion of South Sudan’s political and military system, often reverting to problematic or discredited analytical frameworks – including ‘ethnic conflict’, ‘failed states’ or variants of the ‘greed not grievance’ argument – to interpret the violence, or else have emphasised the chaotic and disorderly nature of conflict and governance in South Sudan. This thesis argues that in order to make sense of South Sudan’s tragic and unshakeable relationship to political violence, an explanation grounded in the concepts of militarism and militarisation, and the framework of militarised statebuilding, is required. The post-conflict statebuilding process in South Sudan has further militarised social relationships whilst considerably expanding the state, creating an enabling environment for war to occur either on the margins of the political system established in the course of statebuilding, or from within it. Simultaneously, it has compelled those making political and economic claims on the state to do so through engaging with this militarised state infrastructure, or else through organising violence to gain entry into the state. However, this militarised statebuilding project entered a state of crisis since independence in 2011, culminating in the mass violence of December 2013, when the same forces which had propelled the expansion of the state would propel its sudden and violent contraction. This militarised statebuilding process has provided much for some sections of South Sudanese society (and especially its elites), but has also left the country particularly vulnerable to large-scale violence among its vastly expanded and heavily armed military. This framework of militarised statebuilding has the potential to speak to enduring militarism and violence in cases of post-conflict statebuilding beyond South Sudan, and advances debate on the relationship between statebuilding and violence in contemporary international politics.


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