In less than 12 months’ time, Southern Sudan’s voters will pass judgement on Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which set out to make attractive the unity of a divided country over a six year interim period. In a burst of activity at the outset of the interim period, the two parties who make up Sudan’s ruling coalition adopted a constitution, restructured the central government and established the Government of Southern Sudan, financed by a share of Southern Sudan’s oil revenues. The two parties are the National Congress Party (NCP, an alliance of Islamist, security and financial interests) and the Southern-based former rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Both had a military, revolutionary past, and both had the combination of audacity and pragmatism that allowed them to make peace and bring enemy generals into parliaments, cabinets and banks. But for the political processes that dominate the hectic year ahead, something more than bold pragmatism is required. Just to get to the referendum, the SPLM and the NCP need to reach a deal on the disputed census, conduct general elections and (safely assuming they survive those elections) demarcate the oil-rich and troubled border between north and south; a border that […]
Sudan’s election is for real. The SPLM candidate, Yasir Arman, has set his sights on the Republican Palace. Sadiq al Mahdi has now also put forward his candidature. There is a growing chance that the presidential election will go to a second, run-off round, with an opposition candidate contesting against President Omar al Bashir. The CPA was designed with the spirit that the two parties, NCP and SPLM, would enter the election in a partnership. The election was intended as an affirmation of the CPA and its promise of making unity attractive, and a mechanism for expanding the political base of the Government of National Unity. The dispersal of powers throughout the different layers of government and the institution of the collegial presidency were constructed to create incentives for cooperation. Political competition was not seen as a high intensity affair. Instead, the election is becoming a real contest for power. There is no gentleman’s agreement between the NCP and SPLM over who will win any particular post. It is moving towards a winner-take-all political competition. The half-heartedness of the SPLM and other opposition groups over participation in the census and other steps running up to the election, is looking like […]
Dr. Edward Thomas’s report for The Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), Decisions and Deadlines: A Critical Year for Sudan contains some very insightful remarks about the dangers and risks inherent in the months leading to the 2011 referendum and beyond. He wisely calls for the post-referendum’s arrangements to be addressed now, catering for the two options (a united Sudan or two separate states). He quite shrewdly states that “deals between the country’s two governing elites” should be reached in order to make sure that the conflict is not reignited. He puts his finger on the most imperative requirement by saying, the responsibility for a peaceful transition is principally with the (NCP) National Congress Party and the (SPLM) Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement. This is the core of his report, with which I fully agree. Along the route to this conclusion, Dr. E. Thomas makes some remarks which are not only controversial; but misleading for others, especially if they build upon them or accept them as facts coming from a Sudan expert and a reliable authority . The State There is a contradiction in the way the report refers to the Sudanese state. It is described as “Sudan’s powerful centre” […]
A survey of surveys of Darfur mortality since 2003 in the latest issue of The Lancet, by the reputable analysts Olivier Degomme and Debarati Guha-Sapir, provides the most reliable estimates yet for not only the extent, but the pattern of mortality in Darfur since September 2003. The authors find that the pattern of deaths “matched well with previously described general mortality patterns in complex emergencies,” giving further confidence in their conclusions. It shows that in the initial period, the majority of deaths were attributable to violence, but that this rapidly fell away, with excess deaths attributable to disease taking much longer to fall, and accounting for about 80% or so of the overall excess death toll. The total deaths attributable to violence are estimated at 62,305 (95% confidence interval 32,229 to 139,142) and the total, including those attributable to hunger and disease at 211,000-298,000 depending on the baseline. The lower baseline mortality assumption (derived in part from a survey I did in 1986) gives a mean of 298,271 (95% CI: 178,000- 462,000). If a more standard baseline mortality for sub-Saharan Africa is used it is 210,607 (95% CI 91,000-374,000). The survey is a significant update on earlier surveys insofar as […]
There is a small but growing minority view among Darfurians, that their region is entitled to self-determination with the option of independence. This issue will be discussed for sure in the coming year. The biggest case against self-determination is that it is a Pandora’s Box: once it is opened, chaos will ensue throughout Sudan and beyond. But with the referendum on self-determination in the south less than a year away, the box is – intellectually at least – already open. The case for self-determination can be made on the basis of one or more arguments, including history, oppression, ethnic distinctiveness, and equal treatment. These arguments don’t necessarily match the international lawyers’ categories and logic, but they resonate among Sudanese, and for that reason should be opened for discussion. The Historical Argument Two kinds of historical argument have been used in support of cases of self-determination in Africa. One is that existing states comprise historically distinct entities roped together in an arbitrary manner. (This would be the historical argument for Darfurian self-determination.) The other is that at independence, territories that were governed separately under colonial rule were bound together in unequal relationships. (This is part of the southern Sudanese case for […]
I was sorry to see the Human Security Report (HSR) released today. I was sorry because this report draws unjustified conclusions and will leave the world more ignorant and misguided for its release. There are four very weak aspects of this report that led to this opening line which I find most problematic, “this report reveals that nationwide mortality rates actually fall during most wars”: 1) This and many other conclusions are solely a function of the low threshold chosen to define “war,” considering it to be ongoing with just 25 killings per year. If war was instead defined as occurring in a population where 0.1% was violently killed in a year, I strongly suspect almost all of the HSR conclusions would reverse. This definition would be closer to the public image of war and to where humanitarian aid dollars flow. 2) The report is rife with profound inconsistencies of logic. Moreover, the report completely contradicts a main theme of the last Human Security Report (“War-related diseases kill and disable far more people than bombs and bullets”). The conclusions about giving up on surveys to directly measure war-time excess deaths contradicts the conclusion from the meeting you hosted in March, […]
The Human Security Report has become well-known for its argument, backed up by careful statistical analysis, that wars are becoming less common since the early 1990s, and also becoming less lethal. The new HSR study, ‘The Shrinking Costs of War’, brings new data to bear on this question, and makes stronger claims than in previous editions. In particular, the Human Security Report argues that population death rates actually fall in many protracted wars, because improved health care for the general population outweighs the deaths caused by violence and disruption. This is sure to be controversial, and it would have been useful if the Report made a clear distinction between smaller and larger wars and clarified whether this claim holds for both. Another striking and controversial claim, is that the very high levels of estimated excess mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo (5.4 million) are exaggerated by a factor of three. If correct, this would compel a rethinking of Congo — but would still make it Africa’s most costly conflict in terms of human life over the last decade. The Human Security Report press release is available here: Shrinking Costs of War Press Release. The full report is available on […]
Once upon a time, ordinary Sudanese citizens followed a set of social mores that we all understood. Everyone’s door was open – it had to be so because nobody had a working telephone. Even the highest officials in the land were accessible, more often at home than in the office. Today, only pensioners can recall those days when Khartoum was an egalitarian city. Years ago, we expected public institutions to function in an orderly and predictable way. The Gezira board was the model for how a government should operate, crunching its numbers with total impartiality. Now it is a miracle if a civil servant follows the rules, and probably he doesn’t even know the rules. We have judges who don’t understand the basics of law and teachers who are barely literate. But it’s not just a question of low standards, it’s that the citizenry’s interaction with the public authorities consists in a lottery, the outcome of which depends on personal relationships, money and sheer luck. This is a deep structural feature of our political economy. Commerce follows the same pattern. Every investment is geared towards a quick return, to be extracted as quickly as possible, never mind the consequences. The […]
Jérôme Tubiana has published an article under this name in a recent issue of the London Review of Books. It provides a rare, ethnographic, field-based account of the conflict in eastern Chad, including both its links to Darfur and its own unique features.
The Harmonised Draft Constitution’s provisions on citizenship go a long way to resolving the problems of belonging to and identification with Kenya that pertain today. Through those provisions, Kenyans will finally propel themselves into the 21st century world—which is a world far beyond the limited conception of an ethnically and racially homogenous and patriarchal single-nation state. If it were to be on those provisions alone that the referendum’s outcome was to be determined, the Harmonised Draft Constitution would and should pass.