In its half century of independent statehood, Sudan has only rarely and briefly been at peace. From the eve of independence until 1972, a separatist rebellion in the South caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Peace in the South coincided with an on-off civil war in the North between a secular leftist government and conservative sectarian forces. ‘National reconciliation’ between the Northern foes in 1977 prompted a slow slide into renewed war in the South, which crystallised into all-out rebellion in 1983 and the spreading of the conflict to adjoining areas in the North in 1985 and to eastern Sudan in 1994. Intermittent low-level conflicts in Darfur from 1987 exploded into full-scale insurrection in 2003, just as efforts to conclude the Southern war were leading towards a landmark peace agreement. Is Sudan fated to experience perpetual instability and a constant round of bloody provincial conflicts? Does the intractability of these wars portend a collapse of the state? Or is there a possibility of a new political dispensation that deals with both the ‘root’ and ‘brute’ causes of Sudan’s wars?
This paper presents the ethnic and ideological factors in the Sudan crisis as products of other processes, notably the strategies adopted by successive governments for managing the peripheries and the militarisation of society. It differs from many scholarly analyses in its emphasis on the importance of failed consolidation at the centre of power. The implication of the analysis is that Sudan faces possibly insuperable challenges in attempting to achieve democracy and a fair distribution of national wealth and power, and that the hopes raised by the 2005 CPA between the Khartoum government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) for national unity and democracy are fading.
Occasional Paper No. 2, London, UK; Crisis States Research Centre, 28 pp.