Back in 2002, Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, drafted a foreign policy and national security white paper for his country. Before finalizing it, he confided to me a “nightmare scenario” — not included in the published version — that could upend the balance of power in the Horn of Africa region.
The scenario went like this: Sudan is partitioned into a volatile south and an embittered north. The south becomes a sinkhole of instability, while the north is drawn into the Arab orbit. Meanwhile, Egypt awakens from its decades-long torpor on African issues and resumes its historical stance of attempting to undermine Ethiopia, with which it has a long-standing dispute over control of the Nile River. It does so by trying to bring Eritrea and Somalia into its sphere of influence, thereby isolating the government in Addis Ababa from its direct neighbors. Finally, Saudi Arabia begins directing its vast financial resources to support Ethiopia’s rivals and sponsor Wahhabi groups that challenge the traditionally dominant Sufis in the region, generating conflict and breeding militancy within the Muslim communities.Continue Reading →
The first theme is one that any scholar of the Anyanya Movement is aware of: that the Anyanya were a disparate group of peasant soldiers lacking a central command and a cohesive political ideology. In Western Equatoria, the picture that emerges from Magaya’s book is one of organised and dedicated guerillas, almost akin to the partisans in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.Continue Reading →
What is the history of nonviolent political change in Sudan–under what conditions and with what complications were civil society actors able to challenge the state structures? Read what happens when two expert Sudanese scholars debate the finer points of Sudan’s lesser-known history of popular protest. Alex de Waal reviews W. J. Berridge’s book, Civil […]Continue Reading →
Economic and financial sanctions rarely work: their best record is when they are short-term, have specific asks, and are targeted at friendly countries. Long-term, broad sanctions punishing hostile countries tend to compound the harm. Depriving a government of any legal way of getting the finance it needs to function, means it works criminal networks instead. Sudan is a case in point: a raft of U.S. financial and economic sanctions has contributed to the dominance of an entrenched security-commercial cartel at the top of government, whose members are personally enriched by this system. When a state is captured by such a network, regime change becomes extraordinarily difficult. There’s no way out of this trap without normalizing state finance—and that means transforming the sanctions regime.
The final and most fundamental point is that we cannot escape this problem with the same tools and the same frameworks that got us collectively into it in the first place.
This agenda for change is neither charity nor coercive intervention, because the problem is ours as well. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan, international interventions have made a bad situation worse. We share the same international financial and security systems: we all suffer the consequences, and all need to fix them. In western, developed countries, we experience the concentration of wealth into a tiny fraction of extremely rich people, alongside policies that have cut into the middle class, and limited the future of the next generation. We have a closed security establishment that considers itself above the rules that govern society as a whole, and permitted to crooks in the name of protecting the public. Their worldview subordinates public interest to greed and fear, and their prescriptions for global problems don’t challenge this formula.Continue Reading →
President Bashir’s narrow escape from South Africa has shown that an executive decision by the African Union’s leaders, including the South African president, to refuse cooperation with the ICC, does not have legal force to override domestic law. It has shown that the ICC has no recourse if a government decides to ignore its obligations under the Rome Statute—only the domestic courts and authorities can enforce its decisions. It has embarrassed the African Union, which looks to be re-inventing itself as, in the words of the late Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere describing its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity, a “trade union of dictators”. Most international sympathies will lie with the ICC: it has scored a moral point. But only the former and current staff of the office of the prosecutor, and others who followed the Bashir case closely, will be aware that the Sudanese president’s unseemly escape from South Africa also saved the ICC itself from what could have been severe embarrassment.Continue Reading →
Five years ago, the center of Khartoum was dominated by campaign posters showing President Omar al Bashir—and advertisements showing a handsome young man drinking a non-alcoholic beer called Champion. Some Sudanese joked that the election was a two-horse race between Bashir and Champion.
The National Congress Party won that election chiefly by mobilizing its 5.4 […]Continue Reading →
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