A model approach to security?

After his appointment, Rin Tueny solicited support from state constituencies—including from senior politicians, elders, youth, and women representatives—to identify challenges and solutions to tackling insecurity. The consensus among these groups was that cattle-rustling and the prevalence and misuse of firearms were the main drivers of violence.

Several measures emerged from these consultations and were integrated into the governor’s security strategy, dubbed ‘security without compromise’. Among them is a call for direct government intervention—including lethal force—against perpetrators of violence or those in possession of illegal firearms. Furthermore, the measures stipulate that every murder, killing or attempted killing, and cattle-rustling incident should be ‘answered by immediate death penalty’ (Lakes state, 2021).

To implement his security strategy, the governor began collaborating with paramount chiefs, requesting that they regularly share information concerning security incidents within their communities. This intelligence enabled the state government to further develop and maintain a community surveillance network that would compel the national government to respond in order to prevent and mitigate cattle raiding and revenge attacks. To further his security strategy, Rin Tueny lobbied for the establishment of three special courts in Lakes—established by the Chief Justice in Juba—to reduce criminal caseloads and swiftly adjudicate violent crime cases and other acts deemed too severe for customary courts to resolve. The special courts—located in Yirol West, Rumbek Centre, and Cueibet—are composed of one high-court judge, local chiefs, a public prosecutor, police officers, and a defence lawyer.

From the early stages of implementing his security strategy, Rin Tueny had to strike a balance in terms of the public’s view of his methods. On the one hand, he needed the broader public to be aware that security services in the state were willing, with the state’s encouragement, to inflict harsh punitive measures upon criminals, alleged or otherwise—which formed the basis of his strategy of deterrence. On the other hand, in order to support these methods, he also needed the public to accept the legal opacity of his approach. While the ethical and legal issues surrounding the governor’s methods in Lakes are widely known, few people seem either willing or politically positioned to challenge him on the matter. Opposition to some of the governor’s decisions has, however, played out publicly, as the following section illustrates.