Wars have been part of human history for thousands of years. In as much as there have been significant efforts among nations to foster global peace, the war still rears its ugly head in international relations. This blog will explore the causes of war within states with particular focus on Africa. It will take into consideration relations such as the one between Sudan and South Sudan. There are several causes of wars, but this blog will suggest that resources, tribalism and political influence are some of the key areas of concern especially in the case of Sudan and South Sudan. Areas of possible long-lasting solutions will also be considered.
The necessities of life are unevenly distributed across the world and Africa is no exception to this phenomenon. In Africa, very often the divide between those with access to natural resources and those lacking them corresponds with long-term rifts along ethnic or linguistic lines. These disputes can often get intensified: after years of latent disagreements and tensions that were never fully resolved. The rift between Sudan and South Sudan, for example, shows how deep-seated ethnic and religious hostilities can lead to the separation of countries. Add the uneven distribution of wealth from the lucrative natural resource, oil, to such situations and you can naturally expect passions to stem out of control. And it did lead to the separation of South Sudan from Sudan. One would have thought this would have ended any hostilities but not long after, South Sudan was thrown into turmoil. Interestingly the country’s natural resource has become the bone of contention among the factions fuelling the war in South Sudan.
To put the genesis of South Sudan’s problems into context, actions by power-seeking politicians resulted in throwing the country into its current chaos led by Mr Reak Machar who was the Vice president of the newly independent country South Sudan. Due to the power struggle with the president (Mr Salva Kiir) at the time (2013), the conflict escalated in the region. Mr Reak Machar, the former vice president, after an internal party dispute with the president, went to fight with the motive to overthrow the internationally recognised government of South Sudan, the nascent state.
Mr Reak Machar
Even though several attempts have been made in order to stop the fighting including arrangements made for peace talks to bring the warring parties together in Ethiopia, yet progress remains sluggish. ‘There has been an interest to maintain the balance of power in the region’ (Best. S, 2002, p.211).
Furthermore, the war in Sudan was one of the most significant events of the 1980s in East Africa. The causes of this conflict seem to include aggression, natural resources, revenge, retribution, retaliation, and tribalism.
In continuation, the point is also made that the war was caused by the interest in South Sudan’s natural resources. According to Morgan (2018), South Sudan bears the third-largest oil reserves in Sub-Sahara Africa. As such, we continue to see the president of Sudan Omar al-Bashir as a dominant figure in this war. Also, his political skills have been underestimated. Sudan continues to muddy the waters by instigating South Sudanese on tribal lines particularly the Dinka versus the Nuers to create instability. Historically, the tribal divisions in Sudan escalated the war, for example, the war in Darfur. Hence, atrocities were committed on ethnic lines in South Sudan where the Dinka tribe are largely supporting the current president of South Sudan Mr Salva Kiiri forming the majority in their army. While Mr Machar is supported by the Nuer tribe which has the largest population in South Sudan. However, the conflict continues to prang the region into ethnic tensions, sending refugees to neighbouring countries like Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, and Ethiopia without appropriate measures.
In conclusion, what lessons have been learnt and are there a way forward? In brief, it has been realised that there is an absolute lack of democracy and the institutionalization of freedom (Baylis et al, 2011). The introduction of democracy is the starting point for any meaningful solution to be lasting. There is a great ‘chance to identify the time-tested fundamentals of constitutional government, human rights, and equality before the law that any society must possess to be properly called democratic’ (Baylis et al, 2011).
But in the meantime, continued dialogue and the realization that war is not a good option favoured by the bulk of the people by the warring parties can go a long way in starting the process of ending this war. The role of regional organisations cannot be ignored particularly the African Union and East African states without any direct interest in South Sudan’s resources. Such countries within the region can have an objective way of mediating and likely to gain trust from the warring parties. There is no one right solutions or approach to the Sudan issue and perhaps a combination of different options with the objective of democratic rule at its front can pave the way of inclusivity in the governance of South Sudan.
Baylis, J., Smith, S. and Owens, P. (2011). The globalization of world politics. 5th Ed. New York: Oxford University.
Best, S. (2002). Introduction to politics and society.1st. Sage Publications.p211.
Morgan, H. (2018). South Sudan seeks to revive oil production. [Online] Aljazeera.com. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/11/south-sudan-holds-oil-conference-boost-industry-181121162656481.html [Accessed 16 Mar. 2019].