HATE SPEECH MONITORING AND CONFLICT ANALYSIS IN SOUTH SUDAN Report #5: September 24 – October 9, 2017

This report is part of a broader initiative by PeaceTech Lab to analyze online hate speech in South Sudan in order to help mitigate the threat of hateful language in fueling violence on-the-ground. Hate speech can be defined as language that can incite others to discriminate or act against individuals or groups based on their ethnic, religious, racial, gender or national identity. The Lab also acknowledges the role of “dangerous speech,” which is a heightened form of hate speech that can catalyze mass violence.

Summary of Recent Events

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.

Meanwhile, new online narratives are forming around these discussions. The approach adopted by IGAD includes consulting with various stakeholders as individual groups, instead of an all-inclusive conference. While some factions welcome this approach, others, such as Taban’s SPLA-IO wing, oppose it. In response, social media users are taking sides. Those who support the new IGAD approach are bombarding those opposed with inflammatory comments. In addition to using well-established terms such as “Nuer wew,” “Jienge,” or “cowards” during the reporting period, a wider range of terms such as “traitor,” “idiots,” and “dogs” have also been trending in this context.

At the same time, violent conflict continued in numerous regions of the country, including Nuer versus Nuer atrocities in Upper Nile, Equatorian competition for influence within the rebel camps and inside the government, and a government crackdown on Dinka Bor youth in Juba. On the latter point, on September 27, several Dinka Bor youth were arrested in Sherikat on the outskirts of Juba. This action, attributed to government forces, reflects long simmering tensions between the Dinka of Bahr el Ghazal and the Dinka Bor. Politically, these divisions were also evident in the split between Defense Minister Kuol Manyang (the most senior official from Bor), and former Chief of Staff Paul Malong (a Dinka from Aweil).  Contrary to mainstream media reports that only 9 Bor youth were arrested, Dinka youth in the diaspora claimed more than 90 youth are being held in undisclosed locations. This incident further exposes the tensions between the two major Bor sub-clans of Twi and Bor South, with some from the Bor South accusing the Twi of instigating the arrest.

Meanwhile, government-led military actions against the rebels in Upper Nile continue to capitalize on internal divisions among the Nuer. Pro-government opposition forces under First Vice President Taban Deng Gai seem determined to demonstrate their legitimacy and influence in the region while rebel forces loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar claim the Upper Nile as their territory. For example, in late September, the rebels captured a county commissioner and several officials in the town of Waat in Bieh State. This volatile situation was exacerbated by First Vice President Taban Deng Gai’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, which was criticized by many South Sudanese (including pro-government supporters). Social media users were actively deriding Taban for his assumption of SPLA-IO leadership against Machar by equating him with a dog that ran away with the bone, only to suffer from biting a bone that lacks flesh.

In Greater Equatoria, some actors have struggled to decide whether to join the SPLA-IO, NAS or to support the government, resulting in violent confrontations. In addition to road attacks and the intimidation of weaker rebel groups, some disgruntled Equatorian groups have resorted to targeting Equatorian government officials and their associates. For example, the recent killing of Imatong State Governor Tobiolo Alberio’s bodyguard in Torit could be attributed to this kind of politically motivated targeting. Some observers contend that Tobiolo, Patrick Zamoi, and Cabinet Affairs Minister Martin Elia Lomoro have been politically vocal because they want to assert themselves as leaders, but this has had consequences for their colleagues. Similar to the killing of Tobiolo’s security guard, Martin’s relative, Kennedy Laki, was also killed, possibly as a warning to Martin.

Visualization and Analysis of Conflict Events

Violent Events: September 23 – October 7, 2017

The visualization and table below use data from the Armed Conflict Location and Events Database (ACLED) to portray incidents and trends in conflict-related events in South Sudan from September 23 – October 7, 2017. This is the most recent two-week period for which we are able to generate event data for South Sudan.

Data Source: Armed Conflict Location and Events Database

Date

Event Type

Location

Description

Fatalities

9/28/2017

Violence against civilians

Awerial

Armed cattle raiders allegedly from Yirol attacked a cattle camp in Nyinmayar, Awerial North County, Eastern Lakes State, leaving seven killed and ten others injured. The attackers took 58 heads of cattle and killed 30.

10

10/1/2017

- 10/4/2017

Battle-No change of territory

Waat

SPLA-IO rebels led by Machar attacked government forces allied to SPLA-IO under FVP Deng Gai in Waat from their base in Akobo. Clashes reportedly spread over 1-4 October. Authorities rejected claims by the rebels that the town was divided between the two parties after the clashes. SPLA claimed that the rebels were supported by members of the White Army. They claimed to have killed 150 rebels (including 91 on 1 October) and injured another 200, while four died on their side on 1 October and 20 others were injured. Shelling was reportedly heard during an ICRC mission to evacuate the wounded after the fighting on 4 October.

154

Data Source: Armed Conflict Location and Events Database (events in South Sudan with 5 or more fatalities)

Early Warning of Violence – Predictive Analytics

PeaceTech Lab is collaborating with partners to develop an early warning system using predictive analytics. Using a combination of data sources including the Armed Conflict Location and Events Database (ACLED), the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT), and social media content from Crimson Hexagon, the Lab has built a statistical model for predicting violence in South Sudan before it occurs. Over time, the Lab plans to refine and improve our model’s accuracy.

ACLED publishes new updated data every Monday. Each update covers the violent events that occurred up until the Saturday prior to the Monday that data is released. Our statistical model is re-trained every Monday with this updated data and then produces predictions for the upcoming week. The most recent ACLED data was published on October 9, 2017, for the week ending on October 7, 2017 (Week 40). We used that data to train our model and then forecasted for the following week of October 9-15 (Week 41).

The maps below visualize this system in practice. The model outputs a probability of violence for Week 41 – illustrated by shades of red in the map on the left. Using a probability threshold we then make predictions of which states will experience violence for Week 41– the red states in the map on the right.

Based on our predictions for week 40, compared to the real data that was released for week 40, our models accuracy increased to 80%.

Predicted Violence against Civilians for Week 41

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predicted Battles for Week 41

 

 

Visualizations – Overall Hate Speech¹

Volume of Hate Speech

The visualizations below show trends surrounding social media content identified as hate speech surrounding the South Sudan conflict. Content sources include: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, new comments, and YouTube.

Dates: September 24 – October 9, 2017
Number of posts: 91

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Content Sources

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Top Sites for Hate Speech

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Topic Wheel of Hate Speech

The visualization below shows top-level and sub-level themes in content identified as hate speech.

Word Could of Hate Speech

The visualization below shows recurring words and themes in content identified as hate speech.

280 comments, 54 shares on Mirayafm Facebook page post, which mentions how Salva Kiir cried while laying the foundation stone for Luri County headquarters, and is upset over the way South Sudan is being dragged backwards, and never wanted to get in to war. Source

76 comments, 32 shares on Mirayafm Facebook page post, which updates readers on a speech that Salvar Kiir gave in which he condemned the behaviors of the security forces in South Sudan. Source

Cluster of Terms in Hate Speech

The cluster visualization below shows connections between terms in social media content identified as hate speech.

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Hate Speech Terms

 

Nuer Wew/Nuer Weu

The term “Nuer Wew” is still actively trending on social media. As initially identified in the Lab’s research, the term has variations in spelling and is most often used by Nuer (and some Equatorians) in the SPLA-IO to insult those Nuer who either stayed in, or rejoined, the SPLA-In Government, such as first vice president Taban Deng Gai. The term portrays the Nuer loyal to President Kiir and his government as money-minded or money-lovers. 

Currently, “Nuer Wew” is widely used as the fight for control of the Nuer community and territory by current Vice President Taban Deng Gai and former Vice President Riek Machar and their factions continues. For example, social media users reacted to an incident on September 24 in which SPLM-IO rebels in Akobo allied to Riek Machar were reported to have captured 14 members of a peace delegation, and then refused to release them despite government demands (see sample posts below). This term, at its core, refers to the intended targets’ selfishness and betrayal at the expense of the broader Nuer community.

Additionally, the term “Equatorian Wew” has also emerged online as a variation of “Nuer Wew.” In this case, the term applies in an inflammatory way to Equatorians working in the current political regime. One of its earliest online references can be traced back to 2015. In the comments of one online post, ethnically targeted variants of “Nuer Wew” were used, including terms such as: Chollo wew, Balanda wew, Jur wew and Wurun wew. Although the frequency of the term “Equatorian Wew” is not high, it can gain traction given current tensions between Equatorians who are defecting from the SPLM-IO to Thomas Cirillo’s NAS, and some Nuer who view them as traitors. This term is also considered dangerous when it refers to  individuals by name, thereby making those individuals and their relatives, friends or family members potential targets for violence.

“Nuer Wew” can be considered inflammatory because it portrays those loyal to the government as tools rather than individuals following their conscience. It also trivializes complex grievances and concerns that people may have by labeling them as people who are motivated by money or paid to betray the Nuer community. Use of the term can indicate that all Nuer think alike and are therefore responsible for the government’s actions.

Sample Posts:

Date: September 25, 2017
Source: Sudan Tribune

To Kush and Kwacha
My dear friends you’re dream of their release by force. It can not and will never happen that you will release them by force. They must be investigated of their interfering of Akobo activities which they were not involve to do. Peace for what?? do your peace in Juba with Dinka and Nuer wew don’t attempt to Lou Nuer land or promise land. Torturing them properly they will learnt.

Date: September 26, 2017
Source: Sudan Tribune

Kush/slave
You talk like you can fight without Nuerwew/UPDF right???? Well, we accept your second option. Come and release them at your own risk!!!!
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Date: September 25, 2017
Source: Facebook (Link is not available as post has since been removed)

People are alway called us Nuerwew because we refuse to follow this woman called Nyariek machar. Then follow field marshal able leader general Taban Deng(liberator). Those who called like that fuck you see how she dress. Wife of jacop juma of south Africa. Hahahaha man in Ayod Gawaar centre.

For any comments or questions about this report, or to be removed from the distribution list, please contact Theo Dolan at theo@peacetechlab.org.