The Greater Upper Nile Region (GUNR), composed of Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity States, has long been at the epicenter of multiple conflicts over scarce resources at the community, county, and state level. Long running disputes over land use, border demarcation, and resource exploitation
have shattered once vibrant communities and have left little room for sustained development, economic or otherwise. A further problem present in all three states is that of cattle rustling; armed individuals
stealing cattle from neighboring communities for reasons ranging from dowry to financial
The current economic landscape of Greater Upper Nile Region fails to promote sustainable economic livelihood activities for the community and competition over scarce means of production (land, water, etc.) further exacerbates economically motivated conflicts within the region. Rampant and
widespread poverty in the region does not help in stemming the conflicts which erupt over these resources. Cattle rustling, a quick and violent method of rapidly acquiring resources which can easily be converted into capital, is a clear-cut, pervasive example of such economically motivated conflicts.
Such activity is present in all three states of Greater Upper Nile Region and has shown little signs of stopping.
The political climate within Greater Upper Nile Region offers a steady contribution to instability within the region. Militias led by disaffected military commanders promote violence in an attempt to consolidate political power. Further, the marginalization of certain ethnic groups in the political representation of Greater Upper Nile Region aggravates violence as marginalized groups attempt to
solidify political gains through alternate means; usually by taking up arms against the government.
Socially, Greater Upper Nile Region presents an even more problematic dilemma in achieving stability in the region. A legacy of conflict has disrupted the social fabric of Greater Upper Nile Region resulting in the separation of brother from sister; parents from children. Youth raised in a war-torn
environment often abandon traditional cultural values and behaviors in favor of behaviors learned in war such as settling disputes and making a living “through the barrel of a gun”. Rather than attempting
to contribute economically, these bands of armed youth, self named: “Niggers”, have contributed to an exponential increase in the incidences of crime involving small arms and light weapons in recent years.
Further, a lack of “societal trust” among the people of Greater Upper Nile Region and the perceived ineffectiveness of government security forces in dealing with crime has led to the population being hesitant to relinquish their arms during government-sponsored disarmament programs. What has resulted is a highly armed and extremely destitute socio-economic climate in Greater Upper Nile
Returnees face serious problems in reintegrating into the community as they often find themselves forced onto the peripheries of the communities to which they return, both physically and metaphorically. Reintegration is a paramount to solving many of the problems posed to returnees as with reintegration comes the added intangible benefits of inclusion, prosperity, and a more general sense of community. Because of this marginalization, returnees remain at an increased risk of the effects of conflict and to a greater degree, food insecurity. Lastly, within host communities, returnees are often labeled as the source of the problem and are targeted by the community as a result of this
Ultimately, all these historical and current issues present within Greater Upper Nile Region contribute heavily to the growing insecurity (political, economic, social) in the region. These issues provide trigger points for many of the conflict occurrences which have happened in recent years and adequately addressing these issues will be key to achieving a sustainable and lasting peace in the region. Further, involving stakeholders at a microlevel (bottom up approach) and offering to them ownership of action, rather than a macro-level (top-down approach) will ultimately help solidify gains
made by projects implemented in this increasingly volatile, yet potentially safe and viable, region.