Friday, November 5, 2010

Second Sudanese Civil War.

In the Sudan, issues of religion, race and resources have been central components in the civil war. Outline these issues as 'motivators' of the conflict and highlight or frame your discussion using relevant theoretical perspective(s). In your paper consider the theme of reconciliation and peacebuilding to heal the trauma and lack of trust among the warring parties.

The Sudanese Civil War is a continuation of the first and began in 1983 with the violence still going on today (Gadir Ali, Elbadawi and El-Batahani, 2005). The Civil War has been the cause of much destruction and suffering with deaths estimated at around two million over the past eighteen years (Gadir Ali, 2005). It should be noted that these deaths have occurred as a result of the ongoing violence but also from the disease and starvation that comes with the severity of this type of violence (Gadir Ali, 2005). The conflict is for the most part, between the Northern and Southern suburbs of Sudan. However, many scholars have varying opinions in regards to the underpinnings and reasoning behind the conflict (Johnson, 2003). This essay will discuss in detail the issues of religion, race and resources of the Sudanese as ‘motivators’ of the civil war and will outline these issues with current and relevant theoretical perspective(s).

Religious Issues

The Second Sudanese Civil War is often presented as the ongoing conflict between cultures and religions namely the Arab Muslim North and the Christian African South (Johnson, 2003). There is then the explanation that comes from the Colonial powers enforcing an ‘artificial’ division of North and South (Johnson, 2003). The first major motivation in Sudanese’s Second Civil War is the issue of religious differences. Johnson (2003) describes the Civil War in Sudan as the struggle between Christianity and Islam (Johnson, 2003) and it is this ongoing conflict of world religions that is an important motivator in the continuous civil war. Due to the large variation in religious differences in the two waring factions, there have been a number of movements and acts that have taken place in an attempt to separate the South from the North. Moreover, in 1921, the Sudanese Government stated that the Southern, black African section of the Sudan should be disconnected from the Northern, Arab section and be added to another part of central Africa (Gadir Ali, 2005:5). In addition, the Northern governments have on a number of occasions, attempted to endorse Islamification and a dominant language in an effort to replace what is a nation state rich in diversity with one of cultural and religious homogeneity (Gadir Ali, 2005:6). It is these movements that have only intensified the injustice in the South of Sudan. More recently, religious leaders of Northern Sudan have had a major impact on the separation of Southern Sudan, enforcing Islamification and Arabization while the South possesses much resistance to those forces (Gadir Ali, 2005:11). As a result of rejecting the South of the Sudan, there has been a dramatic decrease in education (including literacy skills and the number of available schools), agriculture, economy and welfare (Gadir Ali, 2005:30).


While the Second Civil War of the Sudan is said to have begun over extreme ethno-religious conflicts mainly between Christians and Muslims or Africans and Arabs, it is evident that over the past few decades, the cause has seemed to have changed (Suliman, 1992:1). It is now obvious that the civil war in the Sudan is largely based around the recourses found in the North and South (Suliman, 1992:2). Agriculture (specifically sorghum, cotton and sesame) is a major economic activity of the Sudanese and happens to occur mainly in the South (Suliman, 1992:7). The Sudanese government had introduced unfair trading laws regarding the exploitation of water, oil and land which fell well in favour of the North even though the majority of these resources were found in the South (Suliman, 1992:2). However, all the profits made from the agricultural aspects in the South went mainly to the Northern Sudanese elite and as a result, increasing the division and hatred between the North and South (Suliman, 1992:2). Furthermore, after the discovery of oil mainly in the South, the Sudanese dictator, General Nimeiri, ordered the resurrection of an oil refinery in the north which again, intensified the violence (Suliman, 1992:2) and particularly in the 80s and 90s the desire to control and exploit the oil added to the intensity of the violence (Johnson, 2003). Another natural resource that largely contributes to the violence is the issue of water because without it, other resources such as livestock and crops cannot survive. All the rivers in the Sudan are connected to the Nile and all but one originate either outside the Sudan or in the south of the Sudan, thus, contributing largely to the violence (Suliman, 1992:7).

When it comes to the racial differences between the north and south of the Sudan, it becomes more of a tribal rather than racial identity issue because as Suliman (1992:14) explains, there are a number of broken down identities that are present in the Northern “Arab” tribes and the Southern “African” tribes (Suliman, 1992:14). The differing North and South Sudanese tribes have developed such conflicting identities due to the prolonged isolation and separation from one another that when forced to move from their home and face other tribes/cultural identities, areas of friction and strong conflict arose (Suliman, 1992:13). The ‘Southern Policy’ was created in defence against the North government’s attempt to gain control of the South. It consisted of the creation of ‘self-contained’ tribes which pushed for the elimination of Muslim influence and coercion, promoted English as a first language and encouraged missionary activities (Suliman, 1992:14). As a result of the extreme separation of the South, tribes within the South began to form, namely the Dinka and Nuer tribes (Jok & Hutchinson, 1999:127). They turned their guns on each other because of the disagreement in regards to ownership of crops and cattle (Jok & Hutchinson, 1999:127) and this sparked the beginning of the South-on-South conflict. The Dinka and Nuer tribes are well aware that the conflict is not within their interests but find it impossible to stop (Jok and Hutchinson, 1999:127).

The most relevant theoretical perspective regarding the Sudanese Second Civil War would be that of Rene Girard. Rene Girard’s theory begins with the notion of originality and the desire of every individual, or in this case, racial/religious identities to be ‘wholly original’ and looks to others for guidance in self direction and how to be ‘original’ (Hale, 2006:286). As a result, the subject/s become more and more isolated and they learn to desire what others desire and mimic them (Hale, 2006:287). Girard’s theory involves spontaneous desire in which the subject/s obtain a particular desire that lies directly outside the self and in return, they achieve psychic satisfaction (Hale, 2006:287). Girard’s theory also possesses the ‘scapegoat’ mechanism which is used by two parties after conflict arises due to the desire for the same entity to displace tensions and violence and as a result, the actual cause of the conflict is misplaced and all tension is focused solely on the scapegoat (Flemming, 2001:60). In addition, Girard’s theory also argues that sacrifice is a means of venting aggression and explains that once all sacrifices have been exhausted, aggression and violence begins (Gregg, 2001:12). This theory can be applied and related to the Second Sudanese Civil War in a number of ways. Firstly, the South Sudan’s rejection and resistance to the North’s attempt at Isamification and Arabization of the South depicts the ‘wholly original’ ideology that the South possesses, thus being different from the North. Together with the South’s stark and bold originality and the North’s jealousy of the South’s uniqueness, the South begin to become more isolated and rejected from the North resulting in a complete division of the two. Moreover, the North’s strong desire to hold the bulk of the South’s resources, particularly oil, also resembles Girard’s theory, mainly his notion of spontaneous desire. A sacrifice was made by the South when the North Sudan took most of the profits the South made from their recourses, adding hatred between the two and depicted what Girard refers to as ‘sacrificial crisis’ which then leads to violence (Gregg, 2001:12). However, one downfall regarding Girard’s theory is that he does not take into account conscious decision making and rather, he focuses on the sub-conscious decision making processes (Gregg, 2001:12).

Due to the constant and ongoing status of the Second Sudanese Civil War, intervention plans must be made in order for the conflict to minimise or subside. There have been a number of attempts made but thus far none have been able to make a considerable impact. According to Gadir Ali (2005:5), any intervention plan proposed should attempt to shift the focus of the conflict away from a ‘war of visions’ because a solution will not be reached if the interests of both sides are recognised as essentially irreconcilable (Gadir Ali 2005:5). In order for any form of intervention, the solution must take into account and work around the social diversity in the Sudan (Gadir Ali 2005:5). In addition, Deng (1995), proposed three approaches to the identity crisis: firstly, he argues that if the African identities in the North are brought to the surface which would expose characteristics common to all of Sudan, the possibility of a new common identity could form which would allow cooperation and participation to take part (Deng 1995:6). Secondly, Deng proposes that if the problems that separate the North and South prove impossible, a ‘framework of diversified coexistence’ within a federal agreement would be advantageous (Deng 1995:6). Finally, Deng argues that the division of the country along justified borders may be the last resort in an attempt to end the ongoing conflict (Deng, 1995:6).

The continuous conflict that is the Second Sudanese Civil War has been a major issue for decades now and it seems that very little is improving. It is evident that the cause of the conflict not only lies in the religious/racial identity issues but also largely in the division and ownership of resources as well as division of profits derived from the resources. Rene Girard’s theory best suits the current conflict in Sudan outlining the issue of mimetic desire and ‘sacrificial crisis’ regarding Sudan’s racial, religious and agricultural issues. In order for the Second Sudanese Civil War to minimise in conflict and violence or even come to a complete stop, intervention plans must be put in place and followed. Deng (1995) argues for 3 approaches that he believes would help cease the conflict in Sudan. It is this type of forward thinking and proactive arrangements that needs to be taken on by not just the Sudanese but all surrounding areas to make a difference and finally put a stop to the monotonous violence.


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