First, in the unending wars of position currently being fought in preparation for elections, both the SPLM-IO and SPLM are dominated by power struggles between rival figures. Second, these struggles play out over an ethnic cartography formed by the violent ruptures and contentions of the South Sudanese civil war, and the second Sudanese civil war before it. These ruptures include long-standing Fertit anger over their marginalization by Dinka military and political elites, and resentment from Luo populations over Dinka pastoralists’ behaviour in the Jur River area. Third, such ruptures are not long-standing, essentialist ethnic differences between groups, but the product of the politicization of ethnicity by a predatory patrimonial political economy that relies on the displacement of people, the exploitation of resources, and the fragmentation of potential opposition blocs. It is this third level of power politics that is the real driving force of tensions in Western Bahr el Ghazal, as elsewhere in South Sudan.

In such a context, it is not important who the next governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal is. Rather, what is crucial is that the state will remain under occupation: the SSPDF and NSS command structures are comprised of government loyalists recruited outside the state, a situation that ensures the continued economic dominance of chosen business and political elites close to the president, who benefit from Wau’s recent economic growth. They also obtain revenue from gold mined in Raga county, which goes directly to Juba and into the pockets of politicians connected to the president rather than to the people of Boro Medina, who continue to be dominated, and not represented, by Kiir’s regime.