Sudan’s persistent conflicts and elusive peace: confluence of power and interests
Ogego - Peter, NRO
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This study examines why the Sudanese conflicts have persisted and continue to persist, eluding regional and international mediation efforts for peace. It sets out four basic assumptions: (i) the historical incompatible divisions in the Sudan; (ii) the weak and ineffective mechanisms for conflict management and resolution in Africa; (iii) the tendency by conflict resolution practitioners to incline towards conflict settlement rather than conflict resolution strategies, making mediation efforts power and interest-based; and (iv), the absence of strategic national interest and prompt intervention in conflicts in Africa by the external major powers. The literature on how conflict studies have approached international negotiation is undertaken, with specific focus on the ‘contingency theory’ which is found to be incapable of adequately explaining such phenomenon as the persistent Sudanese conflicts. A more inclusive ‘integrated’ contingency theory is proposed to include, within its contextual ‘current’ variables, such key determinants of conflict settlement as the external major power interests and polarity. The study argues that while each of the hypotheses have some credible explanatory capacity for the persistent Sudanese conflicts and the corresponding elusive peace, the fourth hypothesis has greater positive affirmation than the others. The study also posits that the contingency theory cannot help to adequately understand this situation. Therefore the theory needs to expand its base of contextual ‘current’ variables, so that the international political context in which the conflicts persist, and the global and regional polarity, is also factored in the analysis. Secondly, whether mediation efforts have adopted the settlement or resolution strategy, in the end it will still be power and interest based- a confluence of local power alignment and vested interest of both the local political elites and those of the external major actors, aligning themselves in a particular power configuration. Since conflict is endemic in society and international conflicts are ubiquitous, the challenge always remains how the national or international political leadership facing internal or inter-state conflict, manages a particular conflict. How it moderates both the use of power through democratic processes including devolution, empowerment of diverse groups in society, and how it regulates and fairly distributes national resources to cater for all the interests in society, across social classes and other societal divides, racial, ethnic, religious, regions, gender, and age, become the most crucial consideration. The study concludes that the Sudanese conflicts persist due to several factors, key amongst them, are its historical complexity; weak and ineffective regional conflict resolution institutions and mechanisms; short-term conflict settlement strategies; and lack of sustainable interest in conflict resolution strategies by external major power. Besides, the various peace negotiations and settlements stall or drag whenever they are ‘orphaned’ by their external major power guarantors.