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Posttraumatic stress disorder, trauma, and reconciliation in South Sudan



South Sudan is embroiled in a conflict that erupted in December 2013. This study examines what people in South Sudan think is necessary to achieve reconciliation and how trauma exposure and PTSD are associated with those beliefs.


1525 participants (51.0% female) were selected using random and purposive sampling in six states and Abyei. Participants reported on traumatic events, PTSD symptoms, and attitudes towards reconciliation mechanisms.


Results indicated that 40.7% met symptom criteria for probable PTSD. Most participants thought reconciliation was not possible without prosecuting perpetrators or compensating victims and did not support amnesty. Participants with probable PTSD were more likely to endorse confessions (OR 2.42 [1.75, 3.35]), apologies (OR 2.04 [1.46, 2.83]), and amnesty (OR 1.58 [1.21, 2.08]), and to report that compensation (OR 2.32 [1.80, 3.00]) and prosecution (OR 1.47 [1.15, 1.89]) were not necessary for reconciliation. The more traumatic events people experienced, the more they endorsed criminal punishment for perpetrators (OR 1.07 [1.04, 1.10]) and the less they endorsed confessions (OR 0.97 [0.95, 0.99]).


People with PTSD may prioritize ending violence via opportunities for reconciliation, while those with more trauma exposure may support more punitive mechanisms. Policy makers should take mental health treatment and trauma into account when designing conflict mitigation, peace building, and justice mechanisms.

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Correspondence to Lauren C. Ng.

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Ng, L.C., López, B., Pritchard, M. et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder, trauma, and reconciliation in South Sudan. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 52, 705–714 (2017).

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  • PTSD
  • Reconciliation
  • Displacement
  • Peace
  • War and armed conflict