Academic journal article Ahfad Journal

Internal Population Displacement in Sudan: Continuity within Change

Academic journal article Ahfad Journal

Internal Population Displacement in Sudan: Continuity within Change

Article excerpt


Sudan is a product of a long history of migration and displacement. Modern Sudan, in particular, has witnessed numerous waves of peaceful as well as forcible displacement of peripheral populations towards the central riverain areas. Civil wars and drought are often seen as the main triggers of internal displacement, however, despite the end of the civil conflicts in South Sudan and most other parts of the country, by 2010 Sudan still hosted the largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world (approximately 4.9 million representing some 12% of the total population). (1) Darfur alone has some 2.7 million IDPs, followed by Greater Khartoum (1.7 million), southern Sudan (390,000) and some 60,000 in south Kordofan (IDMC/NRC, 2011). The recent conflict in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan also led to displacement of between 73,000 and 200,000 persons, with some areas totally depopulated as a result of the government military campaign (OHCHR 2011).

(Mis)understanding internal displacement

Most of the literature on internal displacement is directly or indirectly produced or commissioned by western aid agencies and is therefore highly influenced by their discourses and notion of displacement as a humanitarian crisis. Within these discourses, internal displacement is perceived as an event and an unfortunate by-product of some other events or phenomena, rather than a separate process and an independent phenomenon worthy of being studied in its own right (Gamal Eldin 2011). The notion of internal displacement as a by-product of something else has meant that there is very little literature focusing on internal displacement. There is instead a tendency to incorporate internal displacement as a marginal element in the analysis of civil conflicts, famine and humanitarian intervention (Cater 1986, de Waal 1989, Keen 1994, Eltigani 1995, Hampton 1998, Johnson 2003). There is also a tendency to confuse internally displaced persons with refugees and voluntary rural-urban in-migrants (Ibrahim 1985, Hamid 1996, Barutciski 1998, NRC 2003).

The form of politics that informs the views of aid agencies on internal displacement centres on the notion of disasters and system and policy failure. (2) In this sense, internal displacement is often seen as an exceptional and temporary event, a diversion from a perceived normality (Gamal Eldin 2011). In situations of violent conflicts, such as in the case of Sudan, internal displacement is viewed as an outcome of conflict or an unfortunate by-product of combat, rather than an integral part of conflict (Hampton 1998, Cohen and Deng 1998). Within such a conceptualization, internal displacement is inextricably linked to scarcity and poverty. Through its perceived association with poverty, internal displacement is also linked to famine (famine being the most extreme form of poverty and economic deprivation). (3)

The literature on internal displacement, in Sudan and elsewhere, is also influenced by a liberal view of the state that sees state policies as benevolent and has no room for the possibility that the state might deliberately create internal displacement or--in pursuit of other goals--ignore its devastating effect on the displaced populations (Keen 1991). This liberal notion, which views the state as an institution that always stands for the good of all its citizens, considers displacement and other "humanitarian crises' as a technical and managerial matter of resource scarcity, lack of capacity and failure of policy that African states, with their limited capacities, are incapable of correcting (Keen 1991, Karim 1996).

The limited literature linked to internal displacement in Sudan also tends to confuse internal displacement with rural-urban migration, viewing it in simple economic terms and analysing it within the context of rural-urban disparities and pull-vs-push factors (Kemeir 1980, Ibrahim 1985, Abu Sin and Davis 1991, Eltigani 1995, Hamid 1996, Assal 2004). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.