Starving Out the Enemy: Withholding food aid as a tactic of war in South Sudan

Hannah Barry


South Sudan has been at the heart of a relentless civil war for more than 30 years, but its ongoing violence has recently reached a level of unprecedented severity. As armed insurgents continue to clash with the government’s military forces, thousands of civilians have lost their lives and millions remain displaced. Earlier this year, the country experienced a devastating and widespread famine that threatened to starve more than 100,000 people. Even now, as the country recovers, more than 5 million remain critically food insecure. Food shortages are to be expected in cases of prolonged war – however, the situation in South Sudan is considered to be “man-made”. This paper seeks to examine how access to food is obstructed during cases of protracted conflict and discusses the role of corruption in this process. This paper concludes that wealthy elites are strategically profiting from South Sudan’s ongoing violence, and are, therefore, reluctant to negotiate a peace that will cost them their affluence. Withholding food aid is a tactic of war used to sustain conflict and must be recognized as a potential warning sign for future genocidal attacks.


Famine; Food security; Protracted conflict; Civil war; South Sudan; Corruption

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