The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars

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THE ROOT CAUSES OF SUDAN'S CIVIL WARS Douglas H. Johnson Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. xx, 234pp, US$54.95 cloth (ISBN 0-253-34213-9), US$24.95 paper (ISBN 0-253-21584-6)

Anyone familiar with Douglas Johnson's earlier work will not be surprised by the insightfulness of this remarkably concise yet comprehensive volume. An extended and updated version of a report circulated among relief personnel engaged in Sudan in the early 19903, this book provides the reader with a historical analysis of Sudan's civil war or, as Johnson rightly points out, Sudan's civil wars.

As a historian Johnson, not surprisingly, traces the roots of Sudan's civil wars to the patterns of governance established before the end of the igth century. What had emerged by then was an exploitative relationship between those who controlled the state (largely Muslims and Arabs) and consequently possessed a monopoly over access to economic activities, and those on the periphery, whose land and resources were pillaged and who were essentially treated as slaves. This divide was further strengthened during the colonial period by uneven levels of investment in the economy, infrastructure, and social services of the northern and southern parts of the country. And so when Britain granted independence to Sudan in 1956, the northern elite, which formed the basis of the nationalist movement, had failed to define a broadly based national identity, while the southerners were ill-prepared to defend their own interests.

Johnson goes on to describe the events leading up to the first civil war, including the rejection of the idea of federalism by the new government and the northern parties, the military government's policy of Arabization and Islamization in the south, and the active repression of educated southern Sudanese. He then sketches the broad outlines of the Addis Ababa agreement of 1972 and the forces that eventually led to its demise eleven years later. Johnson is quick to point out to those who might turn to this agreement and its provision for regional autonomy as a solution to the present conflict that its collapse was due not simply to a failure in implementation but to what was essentially a flawed agreement: many important underlying issues were left unresolved.

The main focus of the book is, however, on the second civil war and the various attempts to reach a solution. …


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