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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

Sudan and South Sudan Course 2015

Civil wars, transitional justice and international mediation in Sudan and South Sudan, by Sharath Srinivasan

The 2015 RVI Sudan and South Sudan Field Course takes stock eighteen months after a devastating civil war began in South Sudan and in the wake of controversial elections in Sudan and ongoing insurgencies. The course confronts the stark trade off between aspirations for transformative change and basic demands for stability and security facing citizens in both countries. In South Sudan, political enmities, the war economy and ethnic antagonisms have spread and worsened. Despite regional and international pressures, any meaningful peace deal has proven elusive.  In Sudan, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), deftly creating and exploiting political rivalries and patronage opportunities, maintains its own centrifugal stability and seems in casual control of power. The April 2015 elections, played off against peace talks and a ‘national dialogue’ that never began, are once again an opportunity, not a threat, for a regime that masters the art of politics.

To make sense of current dynamics, this year’s Sudan and South Sudan Course, held from 11 to 17 July near Naivasha in Kenya, examines key themes of society, economy and politics in both countries, in their near and distant past.

Regional experts and academics, including Jok Madut Jok (Loyola Marymount University), Eddie Thomas and Douglas Johnson (independent scholar), will interrogate drivers of and prospects for South Sudan’s conflict. David Deng (South Sudan Law Society) will examine ramifications of the conflict for justice, rights and inter-group relations. Suliman Baldo (Sudan Democracy First Group) and Magdi el-Gizouli (Freiburg University) will sharpen our assessment of Sudan’s post election politics and give us a long view of the NCP’s prospects after 25 years in power. Yousif Takana and Guma Komey (University of Bahri) will evaluate the state of rebellions in Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile, including their growing interconnections. Addressing economic themes, Laura James (former economic adviser, AUHIP), will explain how oil unites and divides within and between both countries, and how the renegotiation of the 2012 deal on transit fees adds fuel to the fire of uncertainty ahead.

Though the main stage is dominated by elite contestations and international crises a fuller picture of everyday politics is exhibited at a closer range. Cherry Leonardi (Durham University) will examine local practices of customary authority and allegiance in South Sudan while Joanna Oyediran (Open Society Institute for East Africa) and Nada Mustafa Ali (Clark University) and will examine the influence of civil society and women in Sudan. A grounded understanding in beliefs, social identities, livelihoods and geographies unravels deeper influences in politics and economics. Our interactive sessions will draw upon contributions from many of our teachers, including from John Ryle (Rift Valley InstituteBard College).

With intervention frameworks shifting away from democratic openings to stabilization, large-scale humanitarian assistance and conflict mediation, the course will explore the histories of humanitarian, development and peace building initiatives in the region. Aly Verjee (political advisor, IGAD South Sudan mediations) and Dan Large (Central European University) will lead our discussions, tackling a number of key questions. These include: Should IGAD continue to lead on mediation for South Sudan? Do we need to reassess UNMISS’ mandate and scope? Is the Doha Agreement still operative in Darfur? How do we assess the changing mandate of the AUHIP? What lessons can be drawn from previous international interventions in the Sudans, including during the CPA era?

The week promises lively, engaging debate and analysis, alongside refreshing perspectives on historic realities. We hope you will join us for what is, for all of us, a unique and highly insightful week.

Scope of the course

Political rivalry and unending civil wars in the Sudans continue to jeopardise social and economic development. Understanding the histories of state formation and conflict is more important than ever. The 2015 Sudan and South Sudan Course addressed the challenge of working in this complex, fluid environment, linking analysis of current events to contextual understanding of history, society and economy.

Highlights of the syllabus

DAY 1:  The State: Fragile or formidable?
DAY 2:  Peoples, Culture, Identity and Belief.
DAY 3:  Governance, Political Control and Resistance.
DAY 4:  Political Economy: Livelihoods, resources, geopolitics. 
DAY 5:  Learning from Experience?
DAY 6:  Futures.


Core teaching staff

Sharath Srinivasan PhD  Director of Studies
Director, Centre of Governance and Human Rights, University of Cambridge

Daniel Large PhD
Assistant Professor, Central European University, Budapest

Douglas Johnson PhD
Historian of South Sudan

Magdi el-Gizouli MD
Freiburg University;

Cherry Leonardi PhD
Lecturer in History, Durham University

Nada Mustafa Ali PhD
Lecturer in Women and Gender Studies, University of Massachusetts

David Deng
Research Director, South Sudan Law Society

Eddie Thomas PhD
Independent consultant; author of The Kafia Kingi Enclave and South Sudan: A Slow Liberation

Yousif Takana PhD
Former senior researcher on Darfur at Bergen and Khartoum Universities

Laura James PhD
Freelance Consultant

Aly Verjee
Political Advisor, IGAD South Sudan mediations

Suliman Baldo PhD
Former Africa Programme Director of the International Centre for Transitional Justice

Guma Komey PhD
University of Bahri

Joanna Oyediran
Programme Manager for Sudan & South Sudan, Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa

Jok Madut Jok PhD
Professor, Loyola Marymount University; Co-founder, Sudd Institute

John Ryle
RVI Executive Director; Professor of Anthropology, Bard College, NY


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