South Sudan’s Injustice System

Law and Activism on the Frontline

Rachel Ibreck
With a preface by Alex de Waal


The ordinary citizens campaigning for justice in one of the most troubled countries in Africa

Coming into existence amid a wave of optimism in 2011, South Sudan has since slid into violence and conflict. Even in the face of escalating civil war, however, the people of the country continue to fight for justice, despite a widespread culture of corruption and impunity. Drawing on extensive new research, Rachel Ibreck examines people’s lived experiences as they navigate South Sudan’s fledgling justice system, as well as the courageous efforts of lawyers, activists, and ordinary citizens to assert their rights and hold the government to account.

In doing so, the author reveals how justice plays out in a variety of settings, from displacement camps to chiefs’ courts, and in cases ranging from communal land disputes to the country’s turbulent peace process. Based on a collaborative research project carried out with South Sudanese activists and legal practitioners, the book also demonstrates the value of conducting researching with, rather than simply about those affected by conflict. At heart, this is a people’s story of South Sudan - what works in this troubled country is what people do for themselves.

Author Bio

Rachel Ibreck is a lecturer in politics and international relations at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is currently working with lawyers and community activists on researching everyday experiences of customary and statutory justice during the conflict in South Sudan for the Justice and Security Research Programme, at the LSE. She has previously worked for human rights organizations including Justice Africa.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Law, violence and peace
  • 1. Law and Activism in Conflict
  • 2. Inside the Justice System: Domination and Resistance
  • 3. Makeshift Courts
  • 4. Legal contestations at the Margins
  • 5. Citizens for Justice
  • 6. Brokering Survival
  • Conclusion


'This is a wonderful book with a big idea about the centrality of law in both imposing and resisting public authority even in the midst of war. It is beautifully illustrated by granular descriptions about how this tension unfolds in South Sudan, drawing on some extraordinary activist research involving hundreds of court observations.'
Mary Kaldor, London School of Economics and Political Science 

'This is a remarkable book, advancing to a new level the debate about the nature of justice in wartime and filling an important gap in the literature on South Sudan. It is part political sociology, part deep ethnography about how people live with and overcome injustice and part personal histories of incredible legal activists.' Jok Maduk Jok, Sudd Institute 

'Rachel Ibreck builds on a unique career of vital community research to bring us the untold stories of those struggling to make the law work in South Sudan.' Celeste Hicks, author of The Trial of Hissène Habré: How the People of Chad Brought a Tyrant to Justice 

'An outstanding feat based on in-depth research in a difficult setting … this book uncovers the dysfunctions of law and the bravery of South Sudan’s activists struggling for justice.' 
Mark Fathi Massoud, University of California, Santa Cruz. 

'A very important, highly engaging and ultimately inspiring account of the role of law and legal activism in contemporary South Sudan.' 
Cherry Leonardi, Durham University


Publication Date: 30 August 2019
264 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786993397
Hardback: 9781786993403
eBook ePub: 9781786993427
eBook PDF: 9781786993410
eBook Kindle: 9781786993434

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