Sudan’s old and new conflicts : a comparative study

Boshoff, Hercules Jacobus (2005-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Political Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


Recent years have seen new ideologies and political factors being introduced into the Sudanese political landscape. The new war in Darfur has revealed that the traditional North-South conflict is not necessarily a religious war but rather a war that goes beyond religion and ethnicity. Several factors underpin the civil wars in Sudan; principally disputes over religion, identity, inequality, resources, governance, self-determination, autonomy and secession. The attempt is therefore to define the various actors, factors and issues underlying both the North-South conflict and the new war in Darfur, and to analyse and compare the differences and similarities between the two wars. Both the conflicts in Southern Sudan and in Darfur have their origin in the decay of the Sudanese state and in both cases did political marginalisation resulted in political exclusion. Another resemblance between the two wars is the acute identity crisis that resulted from the long history of stratification and discrimination. Both warring groups want to reassert their distinguishing characteristics in the respective conflicts where ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ have distinctive meanings and are used as racial, cultural, and political identities. The third similarity between the South and Darfur is the ethnic cleansing tactics and policies the Sudanese government has adopted. The differences between these two wars is that Southern Sudan has developed into a war over national resources while Darfur does not share the same strategic commodities. The second is secession. The South started as a secessionist war while neither of the rebel groups in Darfur have demanded any form of self-determination. Darfur has also seen relatively timely international attention compared to Southern Sudan. Comparing the two conflicts do reveal that neither religion nor race is at the heart of Sudan’s wars. Instead, the root of the insurgencies is largely founded upon culturally and regionally imposed economic and political marginalisation coupled with the politicization of ethnic identities. The challenge for Sudan will be to create a new consciousness of common identity and a new meaning of belonging that grants peace, dignity, development and fundamental human rights.

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