The White Army is a youth militia made up of various groups supported by the Lou Nuer peoples. The White Army is a Nuer tribal militia that provides security for cattle camps and loots and rustles livestock from surrounding peoples. The proliferation of firearms during the civil war resulted in increasing numbers of armed militias with accompanying increases in armed clashes and fatalities especially during the annual migrations of cattle to water-rich areas of southern Sudan. By 2005 the White Army consisted mostly of young men who had created a military structure and selected their own leaders. They no longer respected the authority of traditional leaders. One obseerver estimated that there were 50,000 Lou Nuer in the migrating cattle camps, with as many as 20,000 of these armed.
Young men often engage in tribal conflicts. The cattle- watching duties in the camps support macho/fighting aspects. Young men are expected to prove their strength and be willing to defend the cattle against raids from other groups. Cattle raiding continue to be the main way pastoralists increase the size of their herds. Dowry demands have risen in recent years, sometimes involving 50 to 100 head of cattle. Cattle are the main commodity in dowries, hence greater pressure on young men.
In 1991 Riek Machar [later Vice President of South Sudan] split from the main body of the SPLM and, along with others, armed the White Army to protect the Lou Nuer, who were neglected by both the SPLA and Khartoum. The result was a largely apolitical, but heavily armed tribal militia that provided protection for cattle camps, but also engaged in notorious cattle raiding against neighboring groups, including their traditional rivals, the Dinka Bor.
The original White Army was responsible for the Bor massacre in 1991, and no one had forgotten the bloody Dinka-Nuer clashes of 1991 and 1992. During Sudan’s North-South civil war, Upper Nile was deeply affected by internal divisions and an overwhelming number of weapons in civilian hands. Youth, who traditionally herd cattle and protect cattle camps, were loosely organized under the leadership of chiefs or cattle camp leaders, effectively creating an irregular civil defense force that came to be known as Jiec in Boor — literally, the White Army - so-called because they live with their herds of cattle and rub ashes on their bodies to protect themselves from flies and mosquitoes.
The Lou Nuer ethnic group in particular has been profoundly divided by long-running conflicts with its neighbors—the Gawaar Nuer to the west, the Dinka Duk to the southwest, the Murle to the south, the Anyuak to the southeast, and the Jikany Nuer to the north. The signing of the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 brought new opportunities and challenges to Sudan’s ethnic groups. Following the CPA signing in 2005, attempts were made to disarm these groups which resulted in resistance and clashes with the SPLA in 2006. Subsequent disarmament initiatives have emphasized a voluntary approach which seeme to have had more success.
In February 2012 the armed Nuer and Dinka youth militia group calling itself the White Army has issued an ominous warning saying that next month it will start new operations to contain rival Murle youth. Militias from both ethnic groups have attacked and counter-attacked each other since South Sudan broke away from Sudan and became independent last year. South Sudan's government claimed that some 25,000 armed fighters from the Machar-backed force - the so called "White Army" - planned to attack the town of Bor, which was retaken by government forces earlier in the week. The youth, like Machar, are ethnic Nuers while President Salva Kiir and his loyalists are ethnic Dinka. Claims of the mobilization came as regional leaders attempt to broker a ceasefire.
The United Nations said December 29, 2013 it was concerned by reports that thousands of armed youth loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar are preparing an attack on the South Sudan town of Bor. A spokesman for the U.N. mission in South Sudan said a U.N. reconnaissance mission spotted a group of armed youths about 50 kilometers northeast of the central town of Bor. He said however that U.N. officials could not confirm how many people were in the group.
The tribal violence erupted in mid-December 2013, when the president accused Machar of attempting a coup. The United Nations says the fighting hadleft more than 1,000 people dead and displaced tens of thousands. A grouping of East Africa leaders announced Friday that South Sudan had agreed to a "cessation of hostilities" and the start of peace talks. The government also agreed to release eight of 11 political prisoners suspected of plotting the coup.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|