Who Is Ruling in South Sudan? The Role of NGOs in Rebuilding Socio-Political Order

By Volker Riehl | Go to book overview

Acknowledgement

I am particularly grateful to Dr David Keen (London School of Economics) who discussed the outline of this paper with me and provided me with valuable advise. I am indebted to my interview partners Mrs Elizabeth Ogwaro, Mr Stephen Baak, Dr Alex de Waal, Dr Tim Allen, Dr Justin Willis, Dr Douglas Johnson, Dr Nicholas Stockton, and Mr John Ryle. Special thanks go to my wife Christiane Averbeck. We travelled many times together to South Sudan and shared good and bad times. Without her, life in the tropics as well as this paper would not have been the same.


Introduction

“Not only is the third sector operating on a more significant scale, but it is also extending its role in some countries to substitute for government in what might be regarded as ‘classic’ state functions. In Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan voluntary aid agencies have virtually operated as local administrations, co-ordinating and planning operations…” (Hulme 1991, 4f). Tvedt (1994, 91), referring to the political situation and the INGO-involvement in South Sudan between 1972 and 1983 says: “…[T]hey themselves became local substitutes for state administration. The NGOs assumed in a very efficient manner the welfare functions of an ordinary state.” Both statements published at the beginning of the 1990s, reflected the strategic and political situation in South Sudan. Having undergone little change, one can observe today a consolidation of a ‘normal’ economic life and peace in most areas of South Sudan. Why, even under favourable socio-political conditions, do INGOs and international agencies1 persist in acting as if there is still a full-scale emergency operation in place?

In South Sudan for almost twenty years a multitude of ‘apolitical’ international NGOs have been working under the umbrella of OLS. INGOs and their local counterparts have had a significant impact in shaping a new political landscape. In addition it seems that INGOs and international agencies have ‘captured’ rights and obligations which normally would be part of state administrations.

Considerable scientific literature about the regional activities and effects of INGOs in famine and emergency situations in South Sudan has been provided (African Rights 1997; Keen 1994a, b, 1997; Levine 1997). Nonetheless there is a surprising gap in research results about ‘INGO-Governance’ in regions suffering from break-downs of the socio-political order.

African Rights (1997, 6f) identifies three major effects aid had on Sudan. Firstly, for the GOS, “it supported the authoritarian tendencies of successive governments” (ibid., 7). For the SPLA, OLS, and the INGOs' humanitarian assistance there existed a constant flow of material resources which ultimately supported their military activities and was also used for diplomatic and propaganda purposes.

What African Rights is underlining is the political misuse of INGOs and their material impact. It is neglecting the political agenda of the INGOs and OLS itself. Humanitarian aid may be not only a material means for government and rebels but it may also represent an intended bid for political influence and direction on the part of the INGOs themselves. Is New Sudan actually the first NGO-istan? During the last five years a number of SINGOs with a clear political agenda were founded. Although widely financed by INGOs they are operating on an independent level. These SINGOs are a clear consequence of the normalisation process in South Sudan and an intended consequence of the political strategy of humanitarian agencies.

If INGOs and international agencies function predominately as public service providers (a classic function of a state), they might also develop a strong social position to behave as regulatory agencies and ultimately they act as the dominant socio-political referees. In the analysis part of this study I want to describe the socio-political determinants of the last ten years which will throw some light on the political stage in South Sudan and might contribute to the main question of who really has the political power and influence in South Sudan today.

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1
NGOs refer to International NGOs (INGOs) and humanitarian agencies such as OXFAM, World Vision, and UNICEF.

-4-

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Who Is Ruling in South Sudan? The Role of NGOs in Rebuilding Socio-Political Order
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  • Title Page *
  • Contents 3
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms *
  • Acknowledgement 4
  • Introduction *
  • Analysis *
  • Discussion 15
  • Summary 17
  • Bibliography and Sources 18
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