This article compares two cases of securitization along South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By comparing how a security concern – the presence of the Lord’s Resistance Army – was interpreted and responded to, the article shows that border security practices in two borderscapes are improvised, contradictory and contested, and serve to establish authority rather than actually securing the border. This is apparent on three levels: (a) through the multiplicity of security actors vying for authority; (b) in how they interpret security concerns; and (c) in terms of what practice follows.

The article argues that by allowing authority at the border to be taken by actors that are not under direct control of the central government, the South Sudanese state is developing as one that controls parts of the country in absentia, either by granting discretionary powers to low-level government authorities at the border or through tactical neglect