Shots in the Dark: The 2008 South Sudan Civilian Disarmament Campaign (HSBA Working Paper 16)

Adam O’Brien
Working Paper

In  an  effort  to  consolidate  its  authority,  eliminate  rival  bases  of  power,  and reduce inter-tribal violence, the president of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) authorized the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and state author-ities to conduct a six-month civilian disarmament campaign across South Sudan from June through the end of November 2008. The campaign followed previ-ous local ad hoc civilian disarmament initiatives in Lakes and Jonglei States in 2006 and elsewhere before that.

This Working Paper reviews the implementa-tion of the 2008 civilian disarmament campaign, with a special focus on three states:  Lakes,  Western  Equatoria,  and  Unity.  Each  of  these  states  presents  a different set of security concerns and dynamics. The Working Paper finds that disarmament  was  generally  poorly  planned  and  sporadically  implemented in the three states reviewed, and had a minimal impact on security. The number of weapons collected is probably a small fraction of the total holdings in each of the affected communities. Most crucially, the decision-making process that led to the campaign, as well as its implementation, highlights concerns about GoSS governance and the ongoing need for reform within the SPLA.

Keywords: disarmament