The Outbreak of the Sudanese Civil War. A Summary

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2008

30 Pages, Grade: 1,7




1. A Theoretical Prologue

2. Introduction

3. The Background of the First Civil War in Sudan
3.1. The Anya- Nya Movement and the First Civil War
3.2. The Addis Ababa Peace

4. The North Sudanese Government and the Results of the State Weakness
4.1. The Al-Numeiri Regime and the Political Fractions in North Sudan
4.2. The National Reconciliation and the Muslim Brotherhood

5. The South Sudan and Its Motives
5.1. The Southern Self-Government and the new Tensions
5.2. The Emergence of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army/Movement and the Outbreak of the Second Civil War

6. Conclusion

7. Appendix: Maps
7.1. The Regions of Rebel Activity in Sudan
7.2. Administrative Structure of the South Sudan

8. Bibliography

1. A Theoretical Prologue

The further we are removed in time from a major rebellion, revolution or civil war, the less we know about its economic and social consequences. For riots and local uprising we often know nothing of their aftermaths even a year later.

The History of Violence in America of H.D.Graham and Ted R. Gurr

The main purpose of this paper is to analyze the period of the Addis Ababa Peace (1972- 1983) in Sudan and the outbreak of the second Sudanese Civil War between North and South Sudan. This paper assumes that the outbreak of the second civil war took its roots from the struggle between elites to maintain political power and economic enrichment rather than the known ethno-cultural or religious differences between the North and the South Sudan. The paper tries to make plain the causes of the outbreak in 1983 and to compare different assumptions on this time period from various sources. Furthermore, different historical assumptions and known theoretical approaches on civil war have been used as a methodical road map.

This paper assumes that civil war is actor-oriented. I would like to analyse the actor relations and their interests, perceptions, motives before and during the civil war, rather than analysing civil war itself as a military or strategic concept.

Civil war is a complex social phenomenon with many interconnected dimensions. One of the main characteristics of civil war, which distinguishes it from other forms of violence,1 is that it causes large-scale destruction2. According to one of the famous civil war definitions (which was made in 1982 by Small and Singer), “Civil war” is an armed conflict that involves “(a) military action internal to the metropole, (b) the active participation of the national government as a combatant (state-sponsored violence), and effective resistance by both sides3 ” (Sambanis 2004: 816). In addition to that effort, Collier-Hoeffler argues that both sides must suffer 5% of these fatalities (Collier-Hoefler 2004: 565).

Unlike Clausewitz’s known definition, “No one starts a war without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it”, contemporary civil wars present an unusual usage of warlike violence, unpredictable potential of individuals (or the privatisation of violence) and absence of any concrete ambition. In that point, the leading contemporary theorists, such as H. Münkler4, and the global experiences (for example the civil wars in Sudan, in Congo, in Angola, in Chechnya) show us the Clausewitzian approach is not capable of defining contemporary method of warfare.

There is no easy way to explain, why particular groups in a particular time or place begin to use violence against each other or why the possibility of violence escalates in a particular society? To answer these questions, we know two main theoretical approaches, which are mainly dominant in the academic circles. First, such as Michael Brown5, assumes that “civil wars are the ultimate manifestations of the collective grievance of people” (Brown 2001: 1). In this paper, it is historically examined whether the known grievances (see Footnote 4) in Sudan were the real trigger of the second Sudanese Civil War or were utilized for other reasons.

The second theoretical approach is developed by Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler. According to this approach, it is only possible to explain the outbreak of civil war, if we can discover the circumstances that favour rebellion (Collier-Hoeffler 2004: 569). For these scholars, the factors of the financial and military viability of a rebellion are more important than objective goals of grievance. Collier and Hoeffler situated the causes of civil war in case of economic greed instead of grievance. They define the rebellion as “a large-scale predation of productive economic activity” (Collier 2003: 3).

In this paper, I take following three indicators of Collier and Hoeffler into consideration and examine as the common quantitative indicators which provide opportunities for a rebel force with the financial means to fight, or factors that minimize the cost of insurgency: “Extortion of natural recourses, donations from the Diaspora6, and subventions from hostile governments” (Collier, Hoeffler 2004: 565).

2. Introduction

The Sudan as a sovereign republic (Jumhuriyya-al Sudan) presents the history of the longest civil war and political instability7 in Africa. Today, Sudan is accepted as a prominent example of a “failed state” and finds place as one of the least developed countries under different measurements (such as, human rights, democracy, financial development8 etc.). Moreover, according to the NGO-reports, such as Amnesty International or World Church Service, civil wars9 in Sudan have caused more than two million deaths from casualties, famine and disease (see Map I).

The paper is divided into three parts, which analyze actor relations, motives and purposes in three different time zones in Sudan. Namely, the first part marks off the conflict background from the end of the British Colonial Mandate to the independence and the outbreak of the first civil war. The central questions of the first part are “how did the parties of the conflict emerge and in what condition they were configured? And what kind of intentions and purposes did they have?”

The second part aims to make plain the conditions in the end of the first civil war and the structural design of the Addis Ababa Peace Period (1972-1977, 1977-1983). In this part, I focus on the process of transition from the stability (the period of the Addis Ababa Peace) to the political violence (outbreak of the second civil war). Finally, in the third part, the outbreak of the second civil war is explained in the light of the new disaccords and the developing trends of violence (intensity levels) between North and South Sudan. As conclusion, I do aim to turning findings to account and formulating a certain assumption, namely the causes of the outbreak of the Second Sudanese Civil War are related with the power struggle between central and regional elites, rather than all the known grievances, which heighten the possibility of political violence.

3. The Background of the First Civil War in Sudan

Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav ’ n … Paradise Lost of John Milton

The Period of the British Rule in Sudan is the period, in which the north/south cleavages in Sudanese Society became conspicuous (Powell 2003: 176-178). The interactions between the Arab North and the South Sudan were restricted and Sudan was governed as two separate entities. During the 1920s and 1930s, the British Colonial Government ruled these two separate entities through indigenous leaders10 (Feron, Laitin 2006: 3). As a result of British understanding of colonial governance in Sudan (Powell 2003: 168-169), the North and South Sudan remained completely isolated from each other. On account of this isolation, the appearance of the distinctions between the Arab/Muslim northern culture and the Animist populated southern Nilotes culture was not unpredictable. While the British government fostered the Arabs’ Islamic values and promoted a kind of western type modernization in northern Sudan, they hardly allowed the northerners to travel, trade and work in south provinces. In the South, while the Christian missions were operating schools and hospitals; the Islamic missions, Arab culture and Arab language were discouraged. British government allowed the South only to develop along indigenous lines. The southern Sudan was largely isolated from northern development progress and was provided with only minimal British resources, which had them underdeveloped.

This separate, indirect rule caused two separate political services: In the South, officials were exercised by British colonial officers and in the North; the officers were mainly diplomatic personnel with Arabic descendants. This distinction was also caused “a cultural and political negative identification of the other”. Because of this new identification, both sides began to build new connections with identical neighbours. To point out this crooked linkage, Fearon and Laitin are quoting Sam C. Sarkesian in their case study: “British administrators reported that Arab traders in the south referred generally to southerners as slaves. Reflecting this division, under the condominium, British administrators argued that the south should be incorporated into Kenya and Uganda, as the people were considered to have affinity with black Africa” (Fearon, Laitin 2006: 4). In that point, continuing restrictions from the British colonial rule (especially in the final years) and been underestimated by the Northerners led the South Sudanese to became increasingly hostile and resistant to outside rule. As a result of this, polarization grew starker between North and South Sudan. In 1955, even before Sudan became independent, Southerners perceived the North Sudanese as attempting to Arabise and Islamise the South. The resistance to northern domination quickly increased. Eventually, munity erupted between government troops and southern bandits.

This paper is not about to define the conflict between the North and South Sudan as a result of British Colonial Tradition. To understand the roots of the conflict between the North and South Sudan, it is necessary to picture the political conjuncture just before the independence. As we know, the Sudanese nationalism has been developed as an Arab-Muslim phenomenon mainly in the Northern provinces. Sudanese Arab intelligentsia acquired as a monopoly affirming the right to represent the country as a whole (Prunier, Gisselquist 2003: 112). During this time period, in which an independence Sudanese State was planed, especially in the Juba (1947) and Cairo (1953) Conferences, it was obvious that neither north Sudanese Arab nationalists, nor British representatives had a concrete plan for the autonomy demands of southern provinces (Ali, Elbadawi, El-Batahani 2005: 195-198). Sudan attempted to gain its independence as an Arab country. The south was forced to accept a unified Legislative Assembly in which they had no experience (Fearon, Laitin 2006: 8). After the independence (in 1956), Sudan continued to be restless, concerning Southern’ fear of domination and discrimination by the imposition of an Islamic and Arabic-speaking government.

In the countries, in which nationalism and citizenship are based on ethnic distinction (such as Sudan during and after the British Colonial Government), the legitimacy of the political system as a whole could fall into question, especially in case of the ethnic nationalism (such as Arab-nationalism in Sudan), and existence of discriminatory political institutions. In the light of foregoing, the main trigger of the first civil war was the prompt political decisions of northerner Arab nationalist elites and the recognition and accordingly existence demands of the Southern Sudanese11.

Nonetheless, the other main problem was the absence of any political culture and political stability. The first Sudanese administrative elites had largely been an extension of two religious Muslim Sects: 1. Khatmiyya, which favoured unification with Egypt (supports The National Unionist Party) and 2. Ansar, which favoured a pro- independence movement (supports The Umma Party) (Collins 2008: 64-68). Notwithstanding, “they weren’t motivated to create any political parties; they had created clans, networks, and proto-nepotist associations for the Northern-Arab-Sudanese’ own hand” (Prunier, Gisselquist 2003: 113). In Sum, the political structure of Sudan right after independence was incapable both to deal with the countries problems and to understand the reasons of the increasing hostility and insurgency in South Sudan.

3.1. The Anya-Nya Movement and the First Civil War

As it has already been already mentioned, there were some revolts and clashes between government troops and bandits in the 1950s (in the territory, which is today called East Equatoria. - See Map II). But in the early 60s there were apparently two important developments in southern Sudan, which caused the outbreak of the first civil war: Firstly, Anya-Nya Movement [ANM] had grown out of a fraction in Congo, which was founded by southerner exiled civil servants and politicians at end of the 1950s. The official emergence of the ANM was against the political and cultural dominance of the North Sudanese Government (in 1962). According to Johnson and Prunier, in 1963, when many southern students and local police fled to the bush and made contact with old mutineers, ANM became a military movement (Johnson, Prunier 1993: 118). Secondly, the Sudan African National Union12 [SANU] was founded as a political organisation for the South Sudanese People (in Uganda).


1 The question can be also asked as Tilly did, and rightly so: What distinguished the violence produced by states from the violence delivered by anyone else? (Tilly 1985: 172) In mid 80s, Tilly answers the question with the reference of “legitimacy”. He argues that “in the long run, enough to make the division between ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ force credible. Eventually, the personnel of states purveyed violence on a larger scale, more effectively, more efficiently, with wider assent from their subject populations, and with readier collaboration from neighbouring authorities than did the personal of other organizations. But it took a long time for that series of distinctions to become established. Early in the state-making process, many parties shared the right to use violence, the practice of using it routinely to accomplish their ends, or both at one. The continuum ran from bandits and pirates to kings, via tax collectors, regional power holders, and professional soldiers”. (Tilly 1985: 173) This assumption is what we actually observe after 1956 in Sudan.

2 For the characteristic of violence in civil war, see “Neo-hobbesher Kriege” (von Trotha 1999: 87-93), for a gradual description of violence see “Exkurs über Gewalt und Schmerz” (von Trotha 1997: 28-35), for an leading explanation of state monopoly on use of violence, see (Popitz 1992: 10- 22)

3 Schlichte argues that in case of such disputes, there are two political proposals recurs to the opposition’s mind: (1) to generate a new state or (2) a new division of the political rights in the country, rightly so generation of an autonomy province. (Schlichte 2006: 560) In Sudan case, the both proposals have been seen, especially after the short-term Addis Ababa Peace Period.

4 In the very beginning of his work, die neuen Kriege, Münkler underlines three changes to draw the new picture of warfare, namely Entstaatlichung kriegerischer Gewalt (privatisation / disestablishment of warlike violence. He points out the price-reduction of warfare); Asymmetrisierung kriegerischer Gewalt (asymmetry of warlike violence. Münkler argues that warfare has no exact rules and borders anymore, accordingly the civilian population become the target of warlike violence); Autonomisierung kriegerischer Gewalt (Autonomy of warlike violence. He assumes that warfare is not only in the hand of regulated national military forces, but also there are new types of private warlike violence actors) (Münkler 2002: 10-11).

5 According to Brown, the causes of internal conflicts could be explained under four categories: structural factors, political factors, economic/social factors and cultural/perceptual factors (Brown 2001: 5).

6 Feron and Laitin mean (criticise) that they couldn’t find any sufficient statistical data on Diaspora to put it as a parameter in their study (Fearon-Laitin 2003: 75-76).

7 There were 14 military coup attempts between 1958 and 1990 (Pfetsch, Billing 1994: 203)

8 The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 2008, Human Development Index of United Nations (HDI), Center for Global Development, The World Bank - World Development Indicators, Human Rights Index of United Nations

9 Together the first and the second civil wars between the North and the South Sudan.

10 The traditional leaders in the North Sudan were Shaykhs (Muslim leaders) and in the South, they were tribal chiefs.

11 According to Fearon and Laitin, the grievance of southerners was not the only reason. They assume that “the grievance hand can be overplayed, however. It is often said that the south never had fair chance at political power. Yet, in 1957, in the parliament southerners had 46 seats out of 173 (26%), and the census had them at 30 % of the population. The larger issue is that groups all over the world have faced exclusions of the sort faced by Sudan’s southerners; it is hard to say that these grievances were of a special character to explain why they impelled a successful insurgency” (Fearon, Laitin 2006: 12).

12 Robert O.Collins underlines that SANU and Sudan Christian Assosiation [SCA], which was established as the voice of Southern Sudan in London, had a visible failure that they were unable to established a visible SANU organisation in Sudan (Collins 2008: 79). This is the reason why Colier and Hoeffler’s mentioned Diaspora Parameter für Sudan holds not good. During this paper I recognise “external linkages” as a parameter instead of Diaspora (See Collier 2007: 39).

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The Outbreak of the Sudanese Civil War. A Summary
University of Tubingen  (Institut für Politikwissenschaft)
Hauptseminar: Analyse der Bürgerkriege
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Addis Ababa Peace, Second Sudanese Civil War, Sudan
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Anonymous, 2008, The Outbreak of the Sudanese Civil War. A Summary, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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