Posts by: Alex DeWaal

This paper examines how contests over military control were played out during peace negotiations and in the implementation of agreements (including the manipulation or violation of the terms of agreements) in Sudan between 2002 and 2011. The cases examined are the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, the Darfur peace talks which took place from 2003 to 2011, and the post-referendum arrangements talks of 2011. The central arguments presented are as follows: the principal political players consistently sought control over the military as a main component of their political strategies; senior military officers posed a threat to the power of nominally civilian leaders; security arrangements were determined by a combination of the leaders’ calculations over their internal power base along with their expectations of ongoing or anticipated armed conflicts; and external programmes and policies for security sector reform were manipulated and instrumentalised in pursuit of these power goals

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As my framework of the “political marketplace” becomes more widely referenced among people who study Africa and the Middle East, I am increasingly asked, “doesn’t it apply in the United States as well?”

Since January, we have been finding out. The lens of transactional politics works remarkably well for understanding the conduct of the current […]

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Last week, Prof. Richard Falk was in London to promote his new book, Palestine’s Horizon: Towards a Just Peace. I attended the event at the London School of Economics. It was of course inevitable that Prof. Falk’s co-authorship (with Virginia Tilley) of the recent report ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the […]

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The presentation by Veena Das, “Techniques of Power and the Rise of the Grotesque” made me reflect on how this topic intersected with the role of celebrities in the public sphere, particularly as the face of humanitarian causes. Are the figures of the grotesque and the “designer activist” in public life two variants of […]

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The philosopher Eric Heller wrote, ‘Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that.’[29] One of the challenges facing the social scientist is that a deep knowledge of a particular issue, or a particular place, allows the scholar to write about it with an authoritative subjectivity. In my own writings on Sudan, I have approached the same topic (e.g. political violence) from different perspectives, each time with some explanatory purchase. These different frameworks of explanation may be incompatible with one another, but that has not hindered me from using them.

My concluding point in this paper is therefore, that (dis)order may be in the eye of the beholder, or the pen of the writer, as much as in the world that is being observed or described. However, rather than lapsing into an irretrievable subjectivity and a resigned agnosticism, I prefer to be cautious about what can and cannot be explained, and to insist on always bearing in mind the limitations of any particular point of view.

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Most adult Africans have, at one point in their lifetime, woken up to martial music on the radio, an unfamiliar face in a military uniform on the television, and the numbing discovery that their country has been snatched away from them overnight. Africans have also become accustomed to the tedium of sclerotic authoritarian regimes, sometimes […]

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