Sudan has been at war for 40 of its 52 years as an independent state. The clearest cause of this violence is not racism but regional disparities in income, education, infrastructure, and political power. While Khartoum, the capital area, grows at a rate of 12% per year, peripheral regions are mired in a state of poverty and neglect that inspires insurrection and feeds cycles of violence.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between North and South in 2004 provides a promising framework for addressing this problem: distributing political authority, sharing revenues from extractive industries, and renouncing military instruments as means to enact domestic policy. Still, the Northern Government has refused to show good faith in compliance. Oil profits still flow to the country’s center. Genocide in Darfur reveals continued reliance on brutality to keep order.
Long-term investment in the whole of Sudan is essential. Since 2004, far more has arrived but it continues to take two stubbornly short-term forms: emergency relief and extractive-industry profits. Little investment aims to build local capacity. While there has been intense international advocacy on behalf of Sudan’s voiceless war victims, very few programs seek to give these victims voice in Sudan or abroad. The country’s NGO presence remains overwhelmingly foreign.
All of this limits the capabilities of humanitarian operators in the country: there is a shortage of indigenous language speakers in leadership positions deciding the strategic direction of campaigns. Few NGO and IGO leaders have adequate culture knowledge to effectively engage local communities.
The absence of Sudanese civil society due to limited resources, inadequate communications infrastructure, and a repressive central government means that disaffected communities have no channels to petition for redress of grievances. Thus, they have little recourse to violence.
Popular campaigns cannot openly conceive their goals, and they seldom link to global peace and development movements. Consequently, they are often commandeered by rebel commanders who refuse adhere to strategic principles of nonviolence. There are no national forums through which to discuss an alternative vision for Sudan.
The US movement for peace in Darfur has galvanized global support and done a great deal to mitigate that region’s massive suffering, but the movement suffers three major limitations:
- An overriding focus on the near-term has forced activists to ignore worsening long-term trends such as desertification and deteriorating public health infrastructure;
- A lack of diversity among campaigners undercuts the movement’s credibility in the Middle East, Africa, and diaspora communities;
- A rigid geographical focus on Darfur and Eastern Chad obscures the interrelated forces at play throughout Sudan.
These issues can be fully addressed only by highly-skilled native Sudanese with a vested interest in the welfare of the entire country.
Gettleman, Jeffrey. “Far away from Darfur’s agony, Khartoum is booming.” International Herald Tribune, October 24, 2006.