Date of Graduation

Spring 5-20-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Olivier Bercault

Second Advisor

Filip Kovacevic


The purpose of this paper is to intervene in the discourse about South Sudan’s civil war to express and provide insights into the broader reality of South Sudan’s civil war. This is to highlight challenges for democracy, possible interface in the peace process, and repatriation of refugees and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The aim of this paper is, therefore, to transcend the current literature that lacks critical analysis in capturing the true nature of the civil war. South Sudan’s civil war has been portrayed as a conflict of two tribes, Dinka and Nuer. This is the imprecise politics of political elites between two casts of characters who have dominated the politics of Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movements (SPLM) for decades, Salva Kiir and Riek Marcher.

To reflect contextually about South Sudan, this paper will attempt to stipulate arguments from a structural level on how South Sudan as a nation emerged and in what ways institutional systems adopted by South Sudan have been subverted to undermined progress for development in a diverse ethnic country. The analysis of this paper will critique and contend that the residual colonial violence that was inherited and adopted is now being employed by the state to oppress and exploit its people. The structurally designed and embedded violence within modern nation-states’ political, economic, and legal order has created the idea of nationhood and national identity of peoplehood based on a singular ethnic identity or superiority. Therefore, in this paper I will base my argument for South Sudan’s sustained brutal civil war on three primary factors: 1) Structural order of society to emulate a “Modern Nation-State,” 2) Adoption of national ethnos/ethnocide as a tool for nation-building, 3) Ominous ethnic organization within state structures that emulate state functions.

Despite international and regional pressure on the regime to reach cessation of hostilities, the international and regional economic dimension of the conflict continued to fuel ethnic hostilities and diffidence. Since the geopolitics and the economics of war demand a permanent state of war, it is an understanding among elites that maintaining the state of the permanent civil war itself in South Sudan is an investment that has produced a profit in maintaining the status quo of the regime at the expense of the suffering civilian population. The analytical literature review for this thesis will be based on the work of Arjun Appadurai, who theorized the Fear of Small Numbers; Carlos Berger, who proposed the use of ethnocide as a tool for nation-building in South Sudan; Benedict Anderson, who critiqued the idea of a nation as an imagined community; Max Weber, who wrote about the conception of the state; as well as Frantz Fanon’s perspective on colonialism in his work, The Wretched of the Earth.