Since the appointment of Rin Tueny Mabor as governor of Lakes state in June 2021, security in the state has improved. Within his first year in office, Rin Tueny managed to significantly reduce inter-communal fighting and armed violence for which Lakes has been notorious. Formerly the chief of military intelligence of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), his heavy-handed approach is centred on targeting alleged perpetrators of violence—often illegally armed youth—with harsh penalties, regularly circumventing legal processes.

An ally of President Salva Kiir, the governor wields broad powers to pacify Lakes and transform it into a political stronghold for the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Over the course of his two years as governor, his methods to reduce violence have sparked controversy and raised concerns, mainly among civil society actors who consider that his interpretation of law and order prioritizes order over the law.

While some have criticized the governor’s approach, others have praised him for reducing levels of violence in the state. His supporters appear willing, however reluctantly, to accept the harsh consequences that have befallen both perpetrators—and in some cases suspected perpetrators—of violence and civilians openly carrying firearms.

According to perception data collected from residents in Rumbek Centre and Yirol West counties in 2022, his approach has, so far, been successful. Nearly 100 per cent of the respondents from these counties ranked road security as ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’.[1] Rin Tueny’s approach is widely credited with having increased road security between Rumbek and Yirol. Disarmament campaigns among cattle camps along the road, coupled with warnings issued to cattle camp youth to refrain from violence, appear to have had positive impacts. In recent months, however, an uptick in violence in areas bordering Warrap state, especially in Rumbek North and Cueibet counties, may indicate that Rin Tueny’s violence reduction strategy is under strain and no longer sustainable.


[1] See PeaceRep (2022, slide 7); Deng et al. (2022, p. 7).