Many supposed solutions to violence in Southern Sudan are in fact doing little to address causes of violence, says a London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) report published this week. The study finds that attempts by government and NGOs to bring peace and stability to the region are not yet providing a sustainable system of justice and economic development which its people crave.
Sudan's civil war, which caused almost two million deaths and was fought between the north and the south, ended with a peace agreement in 2005. While the north-south peace deal has largely been upheld, tensions within the south have remained high and violent attacks on civilians in Southern Sudan have increased. With rule of law in its infancy, civilians are unprotected from crime and atrocities, and without a justice system, reprisal attacks maintain a cycle of violence.
Instead, the team found that structural challenges are at the heart of local violence. Since the signing of the peace agreement, Southern Sudan has been in an interim period which will end in 2011 with a referendum to be held on whether the country will remain as part of Sudan or secede as a sovereign state. This transitory situation has led to a somewhat confused reconstruction effort in which development organisations and donors are dividing efforts between providing emergency aid and state building. Uncertainty about the future of Southern Sudan and the acute limitations in the World Bank's role has compounded the problem of implementing development programming. Many local people interviewed by the research team perceived the time since the signing of the peace agreement as one in which international assistance had largely been withdrawn.
Commissioned for an independent research project by the development organisation Pact Sudan, with funding from the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) and project support from LSE Enterprise, Professor Tim Allen and postgraduate researcher Mareike Schomerus led a team to investigate the tangled causes of local violence. The team was made up of researchers from LSE, the Southern Sudan Peace Commission and the Centre for Peace and Development Studies of Sudan's Juba University. It spent six weeks in three Southern Sudanese states: Upper Nile, Eastern Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal.
Professor Allen said: 'Lots of work has been done looking at the peace process from the perspectives of international diplomacy, donors and towns. But you get a very different perspective from the more remote areas.'
The team found that cattle raiding, for example, is unlikely to be incited by north-south politics. Causes for raiding are as varied as poverty, increased pressure on land and other resources, border tensions, an increase in the amount of cattle that needs to be paid for marriage, weak local governance, the availability of arms and a lack of political voice or perceived future prospects.
Yet current governing and development 'solutions' are not tackling complex problems in a holistic way. Tensions between state-building and conflict management, modernisation and traditionalisation have led to a fragmented approach to governance and structures that actively support conflict. The report argues that decentralisation policies have led to the creation of ethnic fiefdoms, rather than to accountable localised administration. In many areas, disarmament does not mean that weapons are removed, but that they are stored for future use. Due to the simplistic understanding of these complex conflicts as tribal, many solutions have focused on involving tribal leaders, who might inadvertently emphasise divisions, rather than bridge them.
The researchers conducted nearly 300 interviews with elders, donors, local and international NGOs and even the emerging youth gangs. They ran focus group discussions, carried out ranking exercises using pebbles to cast votes for different answers, organised university discussion seminars and administered questionnaires. In several local schools, the researchers worked with young students.
Professor Allen said: 'Working with school children can be very helpful and insightful. The team got them to write essays on different topics, and used drawing competitions to find out when they'd felt most safe and most at threat. The local patterns to this were very different to the timings suggested by formal peace agreements.'
The report emphasises that peace needs to be made concrete through economic and infrastructural development. Before attempting to resolve local conflicts with externally supported localised peace agreements, the researchers suggest that a thorough analysis is required of what is happening at each location in which violence is escalating. More often than not, there are specific local issues that need to be addressed.
It also draws attention to the acute need of longer term funding and planning up to the referendum on independence and beyond. The consequences of Southern Sudan imploding could have far reaching consequences for the region and beyond.
The report was commissioned by Pact Sudan via the Department for International Development. Pact is an independent international nonprofit corporation that strengthens organisational and institutional capacity to further development goals.
The research was led by Mareike Schomerus and Professor Tim Allen of LSE's Development Studies Institute (DESTIN), working with LSE Enterprise. They partnered with Juba University's Centre for Peace and Development Studies and the South Sudan Peace Commission. The final report reflects solely the opinions of the researchers at the LSE.
LSE Enterprise offers a professional interface with LSE's academic departments, institutes and research centres. To find out more, see lse.ac.uk/enterprise
To find out more about DESTIN's work, go to: www.lse.ac.uk/internationalDevelopment
To read the report, go to: www2.lse.ac.uk/businessAndConsultancy/LSEConsulting/recentReports.aspx
Mareike Schomerus can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; Professor Tim Allen can be contacted at email@example.com
For images or further information, contact Rehanna Neky at LSE Enterprise: firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0)20 7852 3711