Adjusting Terminology for Organised Violence in South Sudan

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February 2020 saw the formation of the executive of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU). Since then fighting between the signatories to the Revitalised Agreement on Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (RARCSS) has been significantly reduced, as parties broadly respect the ceasefire. However, although the agreement largely brought an end to violence between signatories, South Sudan continues to experience significant levels of organised violence. The scope and intensity of this violence at times match – or even surpass – that of the national civil war. To describe organised violence in South Sudan, terms like cattle raiding and revenge, ethnic or tribal violence, and inter-communal violence are widely employed.

This effort does not seek to eliminate the usage of terms such as cattle raid or inter-communal violence, as the occurrence of these events and the literal meaning of these terms remains. The purpose of this document, however, is to support a diversity of organizations and personnel engaging with issues of peace and conflict in South Sudan in pursuing greater and more accurate understanding of conflict dynamics. This document proposes revised terminology, including three categories of organised violence: national, sub-national, and localised violence. To place organised violence within the proposed categories, an analytical framework is provided, based on the key characteristics of violence: purpose, severity, and tools.
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