#16Days: South Sudan, Women and Demilitarisation

Dec5 image
Soldiers of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) redeploy to form a new Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) battalion with the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), under the terms of the agreement of the Abyei road map in 2008. Photo credit: Tim McKulka / United Nations.

 In 2001, in his discussion paper “Demilitarising Minds, Demilitarising Societies”, Howard Clark suggested that demilitarisation should be viewed at two different levels, the surface level and the deep level. The surface level demilitarisation concerns the actions taken to put an immediate end to the fighting, such as “disbanding forces, surrendering arms, implementing ceasefire agreements”. It is the effort of diverting the conflict and pushing “the personal, political or other agendas… from the military to the political arena”. It does not, however, require fundamental attitude changes. On the other hand, deep demilitarisation “seeks to address the roots of militarisation and undo the legacy of war and militarisation as part of an effort to reconstruct society on a different basis”. It requires “social struggle” and seeks to “address causes of violence and offer alternative, non-military approaches”. It must be led by the communities in conflict and cannot be forced by international community.

It is useful to apply this distinction to South Sudan’s case. The protracted war with Sudan has entrenched militarisation in the society with great ramifications for the people. As a result, the people are more likely to resort to violence instead of discussion in order to solve political and/or everyday disputes. Transparency is reduced and military needs trump over civil rights. Moreover, divisions between different ethnic groups are widened as suspicion and intolerance of the Other grows. Although the international community is working hard on the surface level demilitarisation, South Sudan surely needs deep level demilitarisation if it wishes to find sustainable peace.

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