Why does South Sudan continue to experience endemic, low intensity conflicts punctuated by catastrophic civil wars? Reporters and analysts often mischaracterise conflicts in the young country of South Sudan as products of divisive ‘tribal’ or ‘ethnic’ rivalries and political competition over oil wealth. More nuanced analyses by regional experts have focused almost exclusively on infighting among elite politicians and military officers based in Juba and other major cities who use patronage networks to ethnicise conflicts. This paper argues instead that civilian militias known as the Nuer White Army have consistently rebelled against elites who they blame for mounting inequalities between urban areas and the rural communities regardless of their ethnicity. While unable to stop governments and NGOs from funnelling almost all their resources to the cities, these militias have consistently mobilised local resources for violent campaigns that redistribute wealth by pillaging urban areas.