“We are trained to be married!” Elite Formation and Ideology in the “girls’ battalion” of the Sudan People's Liberation Army


Pinaud, Clémence. 2015. “‘We Are Trained to Be Married!’ Elite Formation and Ideology in the ‘girls’ Battalion’ of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (3): 375–93. doi:10.1080/17531055.2015.1091638.

Author: Clémence Pinaud


Women have supported, willingly or not, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s (SPLA) struggle of 22 years that led to the country’s independence in 2011 as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This article explains the movement’s relationship to women by contrasting it with other examples of guerilla armies in sub-Saharan Africa at the time. It highlights the lack of ideological depth of the movement from its inception, and dissects the many roots behind the rank-and-file and the population’s hostility toward women’s fighting. It analyzes the reasons behind the creation of the only “Girls’ battalion”, Ketiba Banat, which became an incubator for the creation of a new female elite and fulfilled political and social functions during the 22 years struggle. It also depicts other groups of women who joined the SPLA and were militarily trained outside of Ketiba Banat. Women’s engagement was socially stratified during the war and membership to Ketiba Banat became an engine for increased social differentiation during the war and even more so afterwards. The women who were trained in other battalions but found themselves excluded from post-war neo-patrimonial networks, share the same frustrations as those in other African post-conflict contexts.

Keywords: South Sudan, Sudan People's Liberation Army, women, fighters, soldiers, war, marriage

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women Regions: Africa, East Africa

Year: 2015

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.