Breaking of the Borderlands: Understanding Migration Pathways in Bahr El -Ghazal, South Sudan

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Nicki Kindersley and Joseph Diing Majok
The Rift Valley Institute
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South Sudan, along with many of its neighbouring countries in north-east Africa, faces a seemingly intractable economic crisis. Cycles of civil war and brokered elite peace deals since 2013 have entrenched widespread economic breakdown with locally specific dynamics. This has resulted in increased security surveillance, repression and control. It has also encouraged sustained armed recruitment and out-migration across national borders for survival.

This research project aims to understand the dynamics of this protracted economic and political crisis from the perspective of poor residents in the conflict-affected borderland of South Sudan and southern Darfur in Sudan. The study asks two core questions: First, how do residents in the borderlands of South Sudan seek survival, welfare and better lives in the economies and cross-border migrant pathways available to them? Second, how do young men and women navigate the risks of migrant and military work across South Sudan, Sudan and further afield?
The pathways of young people into migrant and military work in South Sudan, across the border with Sudan and towards Egypt, Libya and onwards are catalyzed and connected by the repressive structures of the economic system in the South Sudan borderlands. This report begins with a description of the exploitative economy that traps and impoverishes residents on this borderland. It is this economy that frames the decisions and pathways of the young men and women who seek work and lives elsewhere.

The report then follows these young people to militarized livelihoods in Juba, across the border to Darfur and Khartoum, through the peri-urban settlements and gold mining fields in Sudan, and onwards to Egypt, Libya, Chad and beyond. The report concludes with an exploration of the borderland migrant networks that keep people alive and connected through these pathways and choices.
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