Leadership Failure Prolongs Sudanese Civil War

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 1997 | Go to article overview
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Leadership Failure Prolongs Sudanese Civil War


Leadership Failure Prolongs Sudanese Civil War

The civil war in the Sudan is usually labeled a religious, ethnic conflict, pitting Arab-speaking Muslims in the north against Christians and animists in the south. Southerners often speak English and various tribal languages and identify with black Africa more than they do with the Middle East. The war has also been called geographic, a straight-forward battle between regions over political and economic power.

Although all of those factors play a part in the bloody conflict, none is the major reason the war has lasted so long, according to Oliver Albino, a former Sudanese government minister and currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University.

Speaking at a program held recently at the International Institute of Boston, Albino said the war is about the failure of a fledgling nation to develop political leadership and the framework around which subsequent disagreements could be peacefully solved.

"Our problem has been the problem of political leadership," Albino said. "We have not developed any, neither in the south nor in the north. There is no leadership that can mobilize the people around it on common principles."

Even before the British had completely withdrawn from the nation in 1955, a revolt of army units in southern Sudan erupted into war. Although it was defeated by government forces, the conflict simmered until it broke out in full-fledged war in 1983.

Albino said the conflict is far older. "This thing has been going on since before Christ," he said, in reference to Nubian revolts against Egyptian domination dating to the Pharaoh Snefru (2723-2563 BC).

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