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Since the outbreak of violence in the world’s newest country in December 2013, South Sudanese have called attention to how hate speech has inflamed further violent conflict. Indeed, online hate speech was a concern even before the onset of hostilities in December 2013. Diaspora communities around the world have increasingly voiced their grievances through social media, often using inflammatory language and images. But what’s the connection between online hate narratives and violence on the ground in South Sudan? How do we begin to understand those connections?

This project aims to address a clear practical and methodological gap that exists in current efforts to tackle hate speech and its effects on communities in conflict zones—namely, how do we identify and contextualize the particular kind of language that’s likely to cause violence? Rather than assessing the existence or prevalence of hate speech language, this project instead examines terms and their use in a particular country context. To successfully monitor and counter hate speech, we must first identify specific terms and the social and political context that makes them offensive, inflammatory, or even potentially dangerous.

Therefore, PeaceTech Lab has produced this lexicon of terms used online during a particular period of South Sudanese conflict that began in December 2013 in order to analyze how they contributed to the conflict. This initiative also seeks to identify alternative language that would mitigate or counter the impact of this speech on the conflict and thereby help build peace in the country. Finally, this resource intends to inform other individuals and organizations involved in monitoring and countering hate speech in South Sudan—and potentially elsewhere—so that their work can be more effective.

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Report #8: November 7 – November 20, 2017

As the end of the year approaches, few signs of improvement in the security and economic sectors in South Sudan are evident. Reflecting on the past year, conflict dynamics have shifted dramatically from what began as mostly a Dinka and Nuer dispute to violent conflict, which has engulfed almost all communities and political actors inside and outside the country. While recent weeks have seen a relative lull in armed conflict, narratives around regional fragmentation have gained in strength.

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South Sudan Online Hate Speech Monitoring Report #8

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Now well into its fourth year, the violent conflict in South Sudan continues to deteriorate, reflected by continuing political, economic and humanitarian challenges. Also concerning is the evolving trend in which major players in the conflict are increasingly breaking the country into regional power structures. Previously, the war appeared pit the Dinka against the Nuer, but more recent developments signify a shift to regional alliances, as well as increasing divisions within communal groups. In the Upper Nile and Equatoria, the base of operations for many SPLA-IO forces and other opposition movements, many believe that the government in Juba must adopt a federal arrangement or risk fragmentation.

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During this reporting period, military clashes continued throughout the Greater Equatoria and Upper Nile regions, both between rebel and government forces, and among various rebel groups. On October 17, a contingent of National Salvation Front (NAS) fighters under General Thomas Cirillo overran SPLA-IO training bases around Kajo-Keji in Central Equatoria. The assaults occurred shortly after the SPLA-IO captured strategic barracks from government forces. The NAS itself claims that it was attacked by SPLA-IO forces, precipitating a counter-attack. It is unclear whether the NAS attack was coordinated with pro-government forces or conducted separately. The NAS rebel movement, composed mostly of Equatorians, is opposed to perceived Dinka dominance in government institutions, but is also not on good terms with the SPLA-IO.

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Report #5: September 24 – October 9, 2017

This reporting period is highlighted by developments on both diplomatic and military fronts. In terms of diplomatic efforts, IGAD’s release of the revitalization forum timetable put forward an October 13-17 period for consultations with South Sudanese leaders and citizens on the peace process. Consistent with this timeline, IGAD foreign ministers have begun their consultations with opposition leaders. On October 5, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyhu met with former first vice president Riek Machar in South Africa, and on October 9, Ghandour and IGAD Special Envoy Ismail Wais met with National Democratic Movement (NDM) leader Lam Akol in Khartoum.

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South Sudan Hate Speech Monitoring Report #5

Report #4: September 8 – September 23, 2017

During this reporting period, ongoing, tribally targeted violence, reflected by sporadic skirmishes in the Greater Upper Nile and in Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal, have been particularly alarming. On September 15, for instance, government forces attacked the opposition’s positions in Fashoda State. Government forces were also accused of attacking a civilian displacement camp at Aburoc. During the previous week, the government accused the rebels loyal to former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar of launching attacks in Gany County, resulting in the death of at least 28 government soldiers and 100 fighters on the rebel side.

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Report #3: August 23 – September 8, 2017

Conflict dynamics in South Sudan during this reporting period were marked by two major developments. The first is the battle over Pagak, which until its capture by Salva Kiir’s Juba-based regime, served as the headquarters of the SPLA-IO under Dr. Riek Machar. Reports are mixed, but Pagak (or portions of the area) seem to have changed hands several times over the last two weeks. The second development involved the military actions by the SPLA-IO Equatorian front under the Yei River State governor Frank Matata. On August 27, 2017, the SPLA-IO forces in Central Equatoria claimed to overrun Bindu, Kimba, Bazi and capture the Gulumi barracks outside Morobo County. Related attempts to drive away government forces in the border town of Kaya resulted in the killing of a 26-year-old American journalist, Christopher Allen, who was embedded with the opposition forces for about two weeks.

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South Sudan Online Hate Speech Monitoring Report #3

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Despite a unilateral ceasefire declared by President Salva Kiir in May of this year (one of at least half a dozen ceasefires to which the various belligerents have committed in the last three and a half years), fighting has continued throughout South Sudan, including during the rainy reason. The most active recent clashes have been concentrated in the Upper Nile region, particularly in Nuer areas. In August, the SPLA-IG and SPLA-IO engaged in vicious battles to gain control of Pagak and Maiwut as part of the SPLA-IG’s anticipated campaign to eliminate the SPLA-IO during the rainy season. Pagak is the SPLA-IO’s last stronghold and serves as its headquarters. The town has changed hands multiple times during the past week. The forces fighting in Pagak and Maiwut are almost entirely Nuer, and the violence is representative of the fracturing within tribes that increasingly characterizes the war. The Nuer who support Dr. Riek Machar are aligned against those loyal to First Vice President Taban Deng Gai. Meanwhile, fighting on the Equatorian front has featured the rivalry between the SPLA-IO and the National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Thomas Cirilo Swaka, who had been the highest-ranking Equatorian in the SPLA before his defection in February.

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South Sudan Online Hate Speech Monitoring Report – August 25, 2017

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Since the last reporting period in December 2016, humanitarian and security conditions in South Sudan have continued to deteriorate, and implementation of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan has stalled. According to reports by the UN, Amnesty International, the 781-800-7183, and (620) 278-3565, among others, the situation in the country has been characterized by a severely fractured social fabric, increased spurry and intolerance, ethnically-charged sexual violence, rampant inflation, and ongoing and large-scale displacement of civilians. This has included nearly one million refugees fleeing into Uganda in the last 12 months, largely because of intensifying violence in Greater Equatoria, and the displacement of an estimated 80% of the Shilluk population from the Upper Nile.

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