An Explanation of the Sudanese Struggle for Peace - Politics in the Developing World

An Explanation of the Sudanese Struggle for Peace
Politcs in the Developing World

I. Introduction:

-Background Information

II. Cause 1:

- Religion

- Cultural diversity

III. Cause 2:

- Natural Resources scarcity

IV. Cause 3:

- Bad Governance

V. Conclusion

An Explanation of the Sudanese Struggle for Peace

Sudan is Africa’s largest country, and is situated in the east. Its name derives from the Arabic, and literally means land of the blacks. The state extends over one million square miles, and its actual boarders are the offspring of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Originally and until 1820-21, Sudan was a set of independent principalities and kingdoms. It was then conquered by Egypt and The United Kingdom, who united the small principalities of the north, leaving the south under no effective control. In fact, the southern part of Sudan remained disjointed; tribes did not gather, and were frequently assaulted by some slave raiders. Between 1898 and 1956 the country was world widely known as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Along with the consent of the British and Egyptian government, January 1, 1956 marked the freeing and independence of Sudan. Since then, the country has entered in a war with itself, which lasted a little more than three quarters of Sudan’s life. In fact, after achieving its independence, Sudan’s territory has been the witness of protracted civil wars deep-seated in religious and cultural differences.

Sudan’s population is extraordinarily diverse; in effect, it is one of the most miscellaneous over the African continent. Apart from the two distinctive more predominant cultures—Black African and Arab—there exist an unimaginable numbers of tribal and ethnic splitting ups, along with language groups. As one can infer, it is crucially difficult to achieve any kind of collaboration between these hundreds of different groups, whether it be political, economic, or religious. Actually, it even became a political challenge to unify all the sub-groups in the country. Typically, civil wars are defined as a conflict between thought-out factions within a single state. In other words, the conflict is undertaken within a single country, between conflicting groups inside of it. Throughout the investigation concerning the causes of a civil war, one usually comes up with two opposing arguments. The first one states that the war is initiated by who people are, which is defined either in terms of religion, ethnicity, cultural affiliation, or political one. In the opposite, the second arguments sustains that civil wars are instigated by structural and economic interests from the groups who initiate them. This dilemma in explaining causes of civil wars is usually referred to as greed versus grievance. To get back to our case; Sudan, its repetitive conflicts relieve more of the first argument; greed. As a matter of fact, identity predicts the occurring of those civil conflicts. Nevertheless, religion and ethnicity do not represent the only causes of the Sudanese long-lasting battle. The answer and origins of the latter are also found in the natural resources’ scarcity, and the governance of the country itself. Throughout this paper, I will discuss these three causes which mainly surrounded the struggle for peacefulness since Sudan has reached its independence.

The religious and ethnic polarization of Sudan has negatively affected the country’s formation and nation building of it as a multicultural society. According to the 2009 census, the country’s population has reached about 41 million people. Major religions in Sudan are Islam, considered to be the official one, indigenous beliefs and Animism in southern Sudan, and Christianity. Approximately seventy percent of the Sudanese population belongs to Islam, twenty five percent to indigenous beliefs and Animism, and five percent of the people belong to Christianity. Islam is predominant in the north, the same way indigenous beliefs and animism are in the south. As one can notice, there is a clear religious segregation, either it be for Muslims in the south, or animists in the north. Moreover, there are split into two different ethnicities. In the north people are Arab/Muslim, and in the south people are African/Christian and animist. They also use different languages; Arabic in the north, and English plus tribal languages in the south. However, before Egyptians colonized Sudan, the country’s major population; not to say almost all of the population, belonged to Christianity. That is to say that when Egyptians conquered the country, they sort of undertook a kind of Islamicization of the people. The greatest part of Muslims in Sudan is Sunni, split into two sub-divisions; the Ansar and the Khatmia. Respectively, these two popular divisions belong to the opposition in the country, the Umma and the Democratic Unionist Parties (DUP). “In September 1983 President Jaafar al-Numayri officially announced the implementation of the sharia in Sudan. The first step was rather theatrical because it involved pouring thousands of bottles of whisky and other alcoholic beverages worth over 3 million Sudanese pounds into the Nile”(Warburg, 1990). In fact, in 1983, President Nimeiri declared that he will introduce into the penal code Islamic punishments pinched from the Shari’a, or Islamic law. The Shari’a includes crimes punishments such as amputation for theft, and public lashing for alcohol detention or marital unfaithfulness. After the president’s declaration of putting into place the Shari’a in both the Muslim and non-Muslim areas of the country (North and south), even the Muslim groups of Sudan revolted.

This event gave way to the longest and deadliest wars of the twentieth century. “In the Sudanese contemporary political and power relations, nonetheless, cultural diversity continues to stimulate intellectual disputes between different political parties. The political disputes most recently included a new wave of political extremists who advocate violence to settle disputes by force” (El Tigani Mahmoud, 2003). In other words, cultural background’s diversity pushed the Sudanese political parties and opposition groups to use violence in order to settle their disputes over the governance of the country. Approximately 1.9 million civilians were exterminated in the southern part of the country, and over four million of people living in the south were strained to leave their homes. This war is known as the Second Sudanese Civil War. It started in 1983 and lasted until 2005. This war mostly took place in the southern part of Sudan. This war finds its origins in the eternal fight between southern non-Arab populations, and northern Arab government. In fact, when the British ran Sudan, they separately administrated the southern and northern part of the country. The north of Sudan was held to be more like the Arabic speaking Middle East, and the south more like East and South African colonies. There has been no cooperation between the south and the north. As a matter of fact, the north could not impose any political influence and power on the south, and trade was highly discouraged between the two very different areas. In 1946, the British government pressured the northern part of Sudan to integrate the southern part in it, and make Arabic the official language for both areas. This gave most of country’s power to the south, which officials’ held more important position the southerners. The elites were based in Khartoum, triggering unrest in the southern part of Sudan. Southern troops and tribes got displeased that Khartoum’s government did not implement its promise of creating a federal system, which engendered seventeen years of civil strife. In the course of this disagreement initiated by religious and ethnic differences, the southern leaders stove outright secession and local autonomy. “Violence and fear play a significant role in causing conflicts. Conflicts in this case have come about as a result of a sense of fear among both groups that their identities and livelihoods are being threatened by the other group”(Leroy, 2009).
To sum up, the first cause while explaining the happening of the Sudanese civil war is religion and cultural diversity. It is not new that multicultural states face governance problems because of the diversity of its people. One can think back of the example of the Ottoman Empire, which saw its destruction due to the rise of nationalism; therefore, each cultural group wanted its independence, threatening the one of the Empire itself. In the frame of our case, religion and cultural diversity marked a bloody and devastating episode, facing the country to almost no chances of change. Basically, this is what Warburg comes up with in his evaluation of the unprecedented repercussions the implementation of Shari’a had on Sudan. “The Islamic laws promulgated by Numayri and advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood have thus outlived Sudan's third democratic episode. Under a military dictatorship, guided by radical Islamic principles, the prospects for change seem nonexistent” (Warburg, 1990).

Historically, Sudan’s economy was based on agricultural farming. During the mid seventies, the Sudanese government has tried to speed up the country’s economic development by shifting the agricultural activities towards suitable crops that could be exported. Therefore, the government opted for modern farming techniques, and implemented a large-scale farming over the country, by nationalizing the Sudanese land, granting them to the society’s elites. As stated before, the Sudan’s elite is heavily located in the north, which infers that the north took licenses of mechanized farms. Unfortunately, in the long-run, large scale farming had brought to the massive degradation of land in the north, shifting the country toward the south. Still, northerners were in possession of southern lands. The land were not preserved, the interest was put upon the massive production of crops to be sent abroad. An increasing number of people have suffered from this policy, which created a tremendous number of people migrating to cities. The problem has even made worse when most of the rain lands of the country suffered from drought. Its explanation comes from the permanent climatic change, which translates an undefined duration of the conflict. The most impacting consequence of the drought was the reduction of food production. Sudan faced a shortage in food, which had again its population entering in a conflict due to the bad maintenance of lands from the northerners, and the Sudanese government. “For example, the policies of mechanized farming by absentee landlords, who share the same origins as the clique that has monopolized state power since independence, are largely responsible for the famines that have plagued the country since the mid-1980s”(Yongo-Bure, 1991). In other words, northerners are blamed for the provocation of famine in the country, of which southerners suffer more.

Another reason that caused the renewed outbreak of the Sudanese civil war was the Jonglei Canal creation. The Nile River passes through Sudan, and flows from south to north. Expectedly, the north wants to have full control over the resources the Nile engenders, which pictures one of the reasons the north does not want to unite to the south. In the 1970’s, along with the help of Egypt, northern Sudan built up a canal redirecting water of the Nile from south to north. The explanation for the building of this canal the north gave to the south was that the water would be better saved from evaporation if it was all concentrated in only one location. This project pushed southern tribes to question their future lifestyle, destined to mechanized farming resulting to dry lands, and expulsion from the favor of large schemes. This questioning brought about the persistence of the conflict between north and south. The Darfur crisis finds its explanation in the negative impact of climate change in Sudan. “During the last three years, Darfur became well known throughout the world. The international media displays the conflict in Darfur as the most engaging item on the International Community agenda” (Leroy, 2009). This attention from the international community is mainly due to the fact that the conflict represents a real humanitarian disaster. The drought in the Darfur region has led the land to become almost desert.

“Although Khartoum has managed quite successfully to isolate the northern impact of the war, nothing has contributed as much to the conflict's sustainability as the opening of Sudan's oil pipeline” (Randolph, 2002). In addition to the fight for water resources from the Nile, Sudanese people fought for their newly brought up resource; oil. Few years before its discovery, the country’s oil reserves represented nothing more but uncertain potential. However, when it first opened pipeline connecting the country’s oil fields to Port Sudan across the Red Sea, Sudan transformed its uncertain potential into political and economic capital. With the oil revenues, Sudan bought sophisticated weapons and doubled its military outflows. The constituency for war have even more expended in the north since Sudan developed industrial interests. This engendered also an interest from abroad, decreasing the world’s population interest in humanitarian action in Sudan. In fact, Western diplomats higher their respectability toward Sudan, and started to be less and less interested in the country’s chronic drought, famine, and human rights violations. Also, there started to be less criticism toward the Sudanese government and system. Oil fields were primarily located in the south, which doubled the government’s efforts to counter resistance movements in the area. In fact, the government aimed to consolidate the control it has over the south, to keep having full control over oil resources. “Indeed, a number of published reports indicate that oil exploration and exploitation have had only limited negative effects on the prospects for peace. These reports are typically financed by oil interests, however, and based on tours through government-held areas. Not surprisingly, such claims have been flatly contradicted by organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, various U.N. special rapporteurs on Sudan” (Randolph, 2002). This claim basically confirms the implication of oil in Sudan’s civil wars. In conclusion, apart for the struggle of religious and ethnic diversity, Sudan sees its population fighting over the scarcity of its resources.

“The controlling feature of post-colonial Sudan has been a crisis of governance. It expresses itself in various forms, but primarily in the recrudescence of violent political conflict, economic and social stagnation, corruption, alternating between liberal democracy and authoritarian regimes, and the proliferation of obscure ideologies. If governance can be defined as the art of conflict management, and good governance as 'the proper functioning of a system of conflict management,' the crisis of governance in the post-colonial Sudan is the art of conflict-generation” (Kok, 1996). Sudan achieved its independence from the Anglo-Egyptian ruling in January 1, 1956. Since then, the country has experienced tremendous changes in political systems, and rulers, which impacted heavily on the initiation of civil wars. In fact, the first civil war, which lasted from 1955 to 1972, was initiated by a problem of governance. After reaching the country’s independence, the Arab-led Khartoum government was supposed to create a federal state system, to suit the north and south’s interest, which it failed to do. “Southern pleas for safeguards and a federal constitution continued to be disregarded” (Ladouceur, 1975). Therefore, southerners’ army officers launched the war, followed by seventeen years of struggle both in the northern and southern parts of the country.

In 1958, power was seized by General Ibrahim Abboud who pursued the Arabization and Islamicization of the country, which definitely strengthened the southern opposition. Until 1969, there was an unprecedented succession of governments that all proved themselves to be inefficient in meeting both country’s areas expectations. Moreover, none of these governments was able to agree on a permanent constitution, neither were they handling the problems of factionalism or economic and political stagnation. Khartoum’s rulers created a policy of ruling regime over the south which consisted on continuing the war against the rebel groups, while highlighting the splitting over their tribes. This policy resulted in the unification if the southern tribes under the leadership of Colonel John Garang. In December 2004 the Sudanese government and the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement Army (SPLM/A) agreed on a declaration for moving toward a peace agreement; the international community along with non-governmental organizations welcomed this meaningful step toward peace in Sudan.

In order to re-count the history of Sudanese Civil Wars, one would need decades to. In fact, while working on the causes of the long-lasting fight between Sudan’s north and south, we discover hundreds of happenings that led the country be what it looks like today. Religion and cultural diversity in Sudan pops-up as the first and foremost reason behind the civil wars. In fact, it is quiet unfortunate that people in Sudan did not profit from their cultural diversities; instead, they found a way of negatively impacting these differences on their welfare. Yet, considering the past History of Sudan, we can quiet much understand why these people emphasized on their differences, rather than bringing them up as a strength. After Sudan’s colonization, the north was pulled up by the Arab community, whether the south was by the African Christian/Animist one. Second, the resources’ scarcity has also largely contributed to the continuing of the fight between north and south, engendering one of the bloodiest genocide in Darfur. Sudan is one of the poorest countries in Africa, which does not leave place for questioning when it comes to explaining its civil wars through the scarcity of water, land, and oil. Last, but not least, comes the arguments that asserts that the Sudanese Civil War are explained through the many problems the country had concerning its own governance. In fact, as we saw earlier, Sudan passed through an unprecedented period in which governments and leaders succeeded themselves, without any concluding results. The issue of governance enhanced even more the conflicts already in place in the country. Moreover, it attracted external intervention.


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