Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues)


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A History Of Sudan's Civil Wars & Conflict [Sudan In 360, Part 1]

Sign in via your Institution Sign in. Purchase Subscription prices and ordering Short-term Access To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above. This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. The final comprehensive agreement was signed on 9 January , when all the protocols became operational. Decisions about oil production and revenue sharing during the interim period were clearly defined on the basis of a per cent sharing formula. The deal was somehow a trade-off: most of the oil fields were located in South Sudan, but the pipelines, refineries and other facilities were located in north Sudan — therefore the wealth should be shared equally between the two parties.

This arrangement lasted from to , when South Sudan became an independent state. Why that decision was taken is an interesting point of debate.

First Sudanese Civil War - Wikipedia

If we take into account that historically speaking resource-based conflict for control of water and land had always been the source of the conflict between different groups, this absence is surprising but indicates that South Sudan itself had problems on how to deal with these issues. Long-lasting conflicts between agriculturalists and pastoralists and among different groups of pastoralists had been a central feature of conflicts within the South, and in the independence and post-independence period this became more obvious.

Evidence shows that during the negotiations and the interim CPA period, the government of Khartoum not only did not promote socio-economic development in the South but also increased its military spending. The promise from the North to promote development in the South during the interim period , in order to provide serious incentives for South Sudan to vote for unity in the referendum of , failed on several accounts LeRiche and Arnold, The magnanimous 99 per cent of votes in favour of the secession instead of unity in the referendum of January was an outcome of this failure, although mixed with other political motivations of the South Sudan leaders.

However, what is interesting to observe is that the new South Sudan government in power since the independence seems to be deploying a copycat strategy.

Rethinking the causes, situation and solutions

Figure 3: The voting options during the referendum in South Sudan. Source: author. Dinka and Nuer leaders, at the top of the power institutions of the new country, are being accused of monopolising the country's resources of the country for their own benefit ICG, a. Inter-ethnic warfare has been increasing rapidly since independence, opposing the mainly-agriculturalist populations of the Equatoria regions south of South Sudan , where the capital Juba is located, to the pastoralist groups the majority in governmental positions.

The accusations are deep-rooted in the history of the country, with the agriculturalists coming back to accusations of marginalisation and exploitation; but inter-ethnic warfare is also rampant between the three major pastoralist groups — Dinka, Nuer and Murle — which became a mix between conflicts for control of livestock, pasture routes and now politically powerful positions in the government ICG ; ICG, b. Interruption of oil exploitation and revenues : after the independence of South Sudan, the per cent deal between Sudan and North for the sharing of the oil revenues was over, as it was an agreement only for the interim period Agreement, Since then the two parties had been unable to reach a new formula for sharing and oil exploration was eventually shut down January April and the economic impacts were severe for both sides, in particular for South Sudan, which is near a bankruptcy.

This had been translated into economic downturn, interruption in the development of infrastructures, increase dependency on foreign aid and ultimately an increasing mistrust between different groups of society Lieng, ;. Unclear economic policy : it is still to be seen what the economic future of South Sudan will be as an independent country. An oil economy but without the institutional capacity to manage the resources and benefits? An economy based on high-value livestock products for export, like north Sudan is doing?

Unclear land tenure and unsettled conflict resolution mechanisms altogether make the situation potentially very explosive in terms of social conflicts. The frequency and intensity of these conflicts has been increasing rapidly since independence, and there is no clear resolution in sight. The return of the Jonglei Project idea : although many see the infamous Jonglei Canal has something from the past, the fact is that resumption of the project is not off the agenda.

The CPA says nothing about water resource development, but since independence South Sudan has also been negotiating with north Sudan and Egypt on how to use the Nile resources — intricate negotiations might lead South Sudan leaders to consider the construction of the canal, as a trade-off for support for other developments such as hydropower that would provide the much-needed energy sources.

Many consider that going back to the project would be like calling back the war, as many would feel that once again central governments were disregarding the rights of local people in the Sudd area.

The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars

Oil revenues and possible development coming out of good use of these revenues are not necessarily going to make the conflicts disappear, instead they might once again fuel the conflicts, as was the case in the second civil war between North and South Sudan. Dismissing this lesson learned from past experience would be an unwise, expensive mistake for the government and people of South Sudan.

Located in a strategic geographical corridor, where the border between Ethiopia and South Sudan now lies, the region has been the stage of several colonial political power games.

The Gambella region in particular the lowland areas had been under nominal British control during the 17 th and 18 th centuries, and as such was part of the British empire and later the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium; at the end of the 19 th century, the region was occupied by Ethiopia, which was by then conquering territory southwards of its stronghold in the Ethiopian highlands Bahru, Officially, Gambella only became part of Ethiopia in , after long and complex negotiations between Emperor Menelik II and the British, which were translated into a swap of territories between the two empires — Gambella was exchanged for Kassala, located in the northern border of the two empires Markakis, After the adoption of the bilateral agreement, Gambella became then the westernmost border of Ethiopia — until bordering Sudan and after separation bordering the new country of South Sudan.

Figure 4: Map of the Gambella region. The confluence of the rivers is located at the most western point of the border, then becoming the Sobat River and later White Nile River. The river had perfect navigation conditions and had therefore always been considered perfect to become a main corridor for trade imports and exports between the neighbouring countries. At the beginning of the 20 th century, traders and mercenaries from different parts of the world and the Ethiopian government itself had great plans to transform the Baro-Sobat-White Nile into a major trading corridor and trade station in the Horn of Africa region Bahru, By then, Gambella had jumped the queue from a marginal region to the centre of the political ambitious of the government of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.

Grandiose plans were frustrated by the political events that followed — abuses by the imperialist powers, disregard for the rights of local populations in particularly the Anuak , allegations of slave trade, social instability, political destabilisation and conflicts Dereje, As a result, Gambella returned to its position as a marginal and marginalized region in the Ethiopian political context until very recently, as discussed at the end of this section.

Figure 5: Map of the rivers in the Gambella region. According to the latest census the current population of the region is , people Census, , although these statistics are contested by many in Ethiopia. Its population is very diverse. The major ethnic groups are the Nuer 46 per cent , Anuak 21 per cent , Highlanders 9 per cent , Kafficho 5 per cent , Oromo 5 per cent and Mezhenger 4 per cent Census, The Anuak are the original inhabitants of the region and until recently the majority of the population.

Nuer have also been living for a long time between the Gambella region and South Sudan, shifting between different areas due to the transhumance nature of their livelihoods.

Highland settlers were moved to the region mainly from the mids, as analysed in the next section. The livelihoods of three main groups — Anuak, Nuer and Highlanders — living in the lowlands areas of the region are very much linked to the use of water and land resources Aleme, ; Kurimoto, Conflict and cooperation have historically characterised the socioeconomic and political dynamics between the three groups. The Anuak have always lived along the Baro and Gilo rivers, practising recessive agriculture — meaning agriculture on the river banks in the period after the floods- as rainfall levels in the region are high from May to August and agriculture usually takes places in the remaining months Mengistu, Access to river by Nuer and their cattle was often based on cooperative processes with the Anuak neighbours, and in times of competition between uses and users conflicts had been usually addressed through traditional conflict resolution mechanisms Dereje, The role of the central state of Ethiopia in these processes of conflict and cooperation had been limited or unsuccessful , at least until the s.

The arrival of the new settlers coming from the Ethiopian highlands to the region during the Derg period and the establishment of a new political system in Ethiopia based on ethnic federalism since the s changed the political landscape of the Gambella region Pankhurst, ; Dereje, The livelihoods of the new settlers had been mainly based on agriculture, as well trade in the last decade. One of the main factors is the concentration of long-standing and newcomers in the same geographical areas, namely the Baro and Gilo river banks, that has contributed to increasing social tensions between the different groups due to competition for the same natural resources Mengistu, Nevertheless, the intensity of the resource-based conflicts has exponentially increased due to political motivations related to the management and allocation of the natural resources, and more recently a race for political power resources.

The population of Gambella was estimated to be 50, people in , and in the following couple of years the population in the region increased sevenfold in a very short period of time Mengistu, The first event was the arrival of , settlers, mainly Ethiopia highlanders, as a result of a resettlement programme including a forced migration policy by the Derg regime in Mengistu, The second event was the arrival of , South Sudanese refugees and military contingencies soon after the resumption of the Sudanese civil war on the other side of the border.

Figure 6.

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Map of population pressure over the riverine areas of the Gambella region. But in brief, five major consequential changes can be identified:. Population density : most of the newcomers from Ethiopia and South Sudan moved to overlapping or adjoining areas where local populations where already living, helping to increase social tensions. Competition for resources : access to land and water became more competitive, and severe challenges occurred in terms of land tenure and rights to use the water resources.

Disruption of customary conflict resolution mechanisms : the efficiency of the traditional mechanisms to resolve conflicts among different sectors of the population were disrupted or dismantled, and not necessarily replaced by an efficient new way of dealing with the new types of conflicts. New layers of power relations : the arrival of the newcomers contributed to the complexity of power relations in the region and increased asymmetries — the already existing ones empowering some of the local communities at the expense of others and new layers newcomers had political resources and networks that the local populations could not benefit from.

Increasing dependency on aid : with the arrival Southern Sudanese refugees, also a lot of international aid agencies arrived providing all kind of humanitarian assistance. This also included food aid, which contributed greatly to the disruption of agricultural production in the region. Two different facets of the conflict can be identified. On the one hand, the region suffered from the spillover effects of the civil war in Sudan — military activities also took place on the Ethiopian side of the border Johnson, ; Dereje and Hoehne, On the other hand, it contributed to the proliferation of a central-periphery type of conflict between the regional powers in Gambella and the central powers in Addis Ababa.

This was translated into marginalisation of the region in terms of economic development — few or no investments or infrastructures were made in the region during this period. The exception was the beginning of construction of the Alwero Dam see next section in the Gilo River, which would have a very symbolic importance in the years to come.


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  6. The dam was not completed before the end of the Derg regime however. By the beginning of the s, a new regime took power in Addis Ababa, replacing the socialist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam by the western-supported government of Meles Zenawi. In the aftermath, we can identify two political outcomes with major consequences for the Gambella region.

    First, the SPLA lost its precious support from Ethiopia, and the Southern Sudanese army had to pull back its troops and headquarters to the other side of the border, but left behind thousands of refugees and traces of political instability Dereje and Hoehne, The political transformations at national and regional levels of power were to affect the region, including distribution of positions in the new regional government.

    The race for political power was just starting and natural-resource based conflicts took on a new dimension Merara, The root causes of the conflict could be traced back to the history of Gambella — marginalisation of the region by the central government of Ethiopia, mistrust between local communities in particular the Anuak and the Ethiopian central government, accusations of attempted genocide by the Anuak community, tensions between old and new highland settlers, etc Sommer, ; HWR, ; Chan, Among the many complaints of the Anuak there was an allegation that customary land tenure rights were not being respected and that their land was being sold off without the consent of the local communities.

    This claim became stronger in later years because of major land deals between the Ethiopian government and foreign investors interested in large-scale commercial agriculture in the region, as discussed later in this section. At the beginning of the 20 th century the river was attractive as a trade corridor that could be used to import and export goods between Ethiopia and neighbouring countries, in particular Sudan.

    Despite its vast water resources, little or no development took place in the basin. There are external and internal reasons, such as the complex hydropolitics between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbours Sudan and Egypt, but also the lack of priority given to this basin due to the attraction of potential developments in the Blue Nile.

    State and Societal Challenges in the Horn of Africa

    However, it is possible to say that the main reasons for the lack of development were the persistent political instability in the region. Another military coup changed the Sudanese regime in the north in , bringing a new leader, Jaafar Nimairi, to power at the head of a divided faction. Meanwhile, the southern movements found support from Ethiopia because the Sudanese government was supporting the Eritrean secessionists and Uganda whose dictator, Idi Amin, opposed the Sudanese government as a client of Israel who recruited many southern Sudanese into the Ugandan army.

    The southern movements underwent a series of internal coups that brought the military thinkers to power in a new organization called the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement, and had some military successes thanks to their new weapons, external support, and organization. The Failed Peace Agreemnt Johnson argues that there were structural flaws in the Addis Ababa Agreement that meant it could not serve as a framework for lasting peace. The southern movement was seeking a federal structure for Sudan in which the south would have autonomy.

    Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues) Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues)
    Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues) Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues)
    Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues) Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues)
    Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues) Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues)
    Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues) Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues)
    Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues) Root Causes of Sudans Civil Wars (African Issues)

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