Robert Bates’ When Things Fell Apart: State Failure in Late Century Africa is a seminal contribution to understanding state crises Africa. Bates’ thesis is that in the late 20th century, sub-Saharan African states suffered a catastrophic lowering of public revenues (brought about by a combination of poverty and fiscal austerity measures), that caused rulers with relatively short time horizons to shift from a longer-term strategy of promoting domestic wealth creation, and taxing it, to short-term predation. Definitive of political order is the capacity to coerce. A ruler can deploy violence either in support of a rule-governed system (protecting the creation of wealth by private citizens) or to strip assets (preying on citizens), bringing short-term returns to the ruler at the expense of a subsequent collapse in governance and a lower rate of return. When the ruler opts for predation, citizens are more likely to take up arms to protect their (dwindling) assets and (threatened) livelihoods, resorting to vigilantism or rebellion or both. Patrimonial political systems operate by the ruler distributing material benefits to his supporters. The ruler’s challenge is to secure sufficient inflow of resources from taxation or predation to exceed the disbursement of rewards sufficient to secure the loyalties […]
Posted on behalf of Sarah Barga Alex de Waal makes a compelling argument for the possibility of the underground lake found in the northern part of Darfur as having negative effects. It is easy to look at the situation at arms length, or from the outside and think that the water reserves would have positive impact, but as we look closer at this issue we see that political instability plays a key role in determining what the outcome of the water reserves would be. De Waal presents information that is necessary to consider, especially for those of us who are not as familiar with the current situation. Alex successfully breaks down the situation into parts so that it is less overwhelming to analyze and does not solely argue that water resources will have a negative effect, he also looks into what would need to happen in order for the new found water to positively effect the people of Darfur.
Many thanks to Alex de Waal for posting my briefing on land issues in Sudan on his blog last month and for stimulating so many interesting contributions on such a critical topic. I have just returned from Juba where I have been carrying out research on the reintegration of IDPs and refugees returning to the South. The magnitude and the urgency of the land crisis in Juba are a further testimony to the centrality of the land question for the stability of Sudan. The briefing I prepared for SSRC was commissioned as a short, non-academic piece for policy makers, and it therefore does not explore the multiplicity of land issues in their full complexity. The paper only aims to highlight key issues and dynamics, outline possible scenarios and offer broad recommendations. I am glad that it has generated so many in-depth and insightful responses on this blog, though I cannot fail to note that the majority of contributions have been focused on Darfur. The resolution of the land question is critical throughout the country and it is taking an increasingly urgent dimension in the South as a result of the arrival of such large numbers of returnees. Of the various […]
Overview 1. The NCP-SPLM partnership for the CPA stands at a critical juncture. The NCP sees the 2009 elections as its route to internal and international legitimacy and is hoping that problems with the census and elections can be pinned on others (the SPLM, the Darfurians). Both parties have failed to find a compromise to the Abyei situation. 2. The NCP strategy for the elections is to organize politically in the central regions of the North, expecting to use its money and organization to win on the basis of pre-election agreements with other Northern parties, and to utilize security methods to control elections in the peripheral areas including Darfur and the South, where necessary postponing elections altogether. The Northern parties are distrustful of both NCP and SPLM. The SPLM faces the challenge of organizing its own electoral strategy for the North. 3. The economic crisis of the last nine months is a major headache for the NCP. Economic hardship undermines the NCP’s popularity among its constituents and creates difficulties for its patronage-based mechanism for controlling the country. The NCP has moved to consolidate central control of state finances. 4. The SPLM Convention scheduled for May will be a pivotal event […]
Posted on behalf of Ambassador Hassan E. Talib. First of all, I would like to extend my gratitude to this blog for allowing this opportunity for the debate on the issue of culture and political conduct of the Islamic Movement in Sudan, including the National Islamic Front (NIF). I thank, as well, Dr. Al-Affendi for his valuable and well informed insights. The era of mass-democracy and mass movements that depend on mass mobilization and charismatic historical leaders, who usually stick to life-long leadership mandate, has gone for good, leaving the play ground for the fragmentations the article talks about. Throughout its history that last more than six decades since 1947, the Islamic Movement in the Sudan has undergone complex processes of restructuring, re-naming and fragmentation in different splinter group lets of different sizes and influence, at least five times, with an average time-lag of 12 years. In the global arena of our day and in the Sudan of post Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), concluded with the former rebels of the South, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM), on January 9 2005, I think what the NIF has been successful in doing since its inception in the mid-80s of the last […]
A report by Jérôme Tubiana for the Small Arms Survey, “The Chad-Sudan Proxy War and the “Darfurization” of Chad: Myths and Reality,” provides excellent analysis of the Chadian conflict. It is a fine succinct run down of the domestic crisis in Chad and the interstate war by proxy between Chad and Sudan, including a compendium of the different armed groups and a useful explanation of the meaning of “Janjawid” in Chad. Its key point is that the Chadian war should not simply be analyzed as a spillover from Darfur, and that the European Union military mission to Chad cannot expect to succeed without a political process leading towards peace in Chad.
One of the great ironies of the Islamist adventure in coup-making (leading to the creation of the National Salvation regime in June 1989) was that the move dealt a more serious blow to the Islamist movement than it to any other political group. When the government banned all political parties, all of them resisted and continued to operate clandestinely or abroad. Most gained strength from that struggle. Not so the government’s own supposed party, the National Islamic Front: it simply rolled over and died as it was told. The most supreme body of the movement, the Shura Council, was persuaded to dissolve itself and all the formal structures of the movement and to vest all its authority in the Secretary General (Dr Hassan Turabi), who from that time on became the “movement”. Attempts at Revival When attempts were later made to resuscitate the movement, it was too late. For the party had become riven by divisions and rivalries, and it has changed considerably, both in terms of potential membership and orientation. Those seeking a revival were chasing a mirage, a vanished world that has been completely bypassed by events. Those in the leadership did not want a revival, but wanted […]
Asif Faiz claims that Khartoum resembles capital cities in “virtually every” developing country. In the sense that, for the first, time the majority of people in the world now live in cities he is correct. However, this claim is at a level of generality comparable with the equally correct statement that Khartoum is similar to other cities in that its inhabitants have to eat. If one looks at specifics of history and politics, however, it is very different. Urbanisation in Sudan cannot be disconnected from the exceptional way in which Khartoum governs its rural hinterland. There is nothing natural about his process. Moreover, it means that Sudan — and present day Darfur is a good example — has never been a “rural Shangri-la”. While there is some substance in Asif’s claim that the urban poor enjoy more “opportunity and enterprise” than the rural poor, they also fated with a common burden; both are expected to be self-reliant interms of meeting their own basic economic and social needs. If one adopts a high level of generality and mix this with the naïve optimism of development policy, it is possible to see a positive outcome in the most difficult of circumstances. A […]
Mark Duffield’s comments are thoughtful but I would ask him a simple question. Is Khartoum that different from imperial cities like Delhi, Mexico City, Lima., Buenos Aires, in relation to their surrounding areas. So why is Khartoum singled out as an anomaly when virtually every Sub-Saharan African country exhibits the same trends in terms of the relationship of the capital city with the rest of the country. Are Addis, Nairobi, and Kampala that different? Despite all its faults, Khartoum does not have the ostentation of Nairobi and Addis– not so far. My second question is whether the urban poor in terms of opportunity and enterprise are not better off than rural poor in Sudan and most developing countries? Or shall we always be on the lookout for the noble savage and the rural Shangri La’s that exist in people’s imagination. Urbanization is the path to equal representation and eventually a vibrant democracy.
In his comment yesterday, Michael Swigert of Africa Action usefully compares the memorandum that Abdul Mohammed and I submitted to the mediation meeting on March 18, with the Enough report published the following week. Clearly we’re aiming at the same outcome and many of the recommendations are essentially the same. But it is worth dwelling briefly on the differences of emphasis between the two. Enough takes a maximalist approach to peacemaking, arguing that making peace requires the participation of all stakeholders, civilian protection, punishment of perpetrators, and maximum humanitarian programming access. All of these are desirable things. But to say that they all can be achieved at once is a statement of faith. Experience of the real world cautions us to be rather more pragmatic. This is where we diverge from Enough: Abdul and I think the trade-offs are more difficult and painful. One of the lessons of humanitarian programming is that relief operations can become entangled in war economies and can create perverse incentives to continue violence. Few people ever argued that this was a deliberate culpable act—it was an unintended consequence. As Michael Maren noted concerning the disastrous international record in Somalia, the road to Hell is paved […]