CIVIL WAR IN SUDAN: The Impact of Ecological Degradation December 1992
Since the firing of the first bullet in 1983, the re-appearance of war between Northern and Southern Sudan has generally been interpreted as a typical ethno-religious conflict deriving from differences between Muslims and Christians, or Arabs and Africans.
While this categorisation had served as a description of the earlier manifestation of the conflict in the 1950s, and still has some bearing on how the war is being conducted and perceived, our opinion is that the nature of the conflict haschanged. Conflicts are processes, not static events, and over the last three decades developments in the Sudan have gradually if consistently changed the nature of the conflict from being a classic ethno-religious conflict to one mainly over resources, with the economic and resource crisis in the North emerging as a driving force in the Sudanese civil war.
When the colonial powers introduced their market economy in Sudan towards the end of the last century, they simultaneously restricted its development and expansion by indigenous Sudanese in order to maintain political and economic control. After independence, however, a Sudanese `national bourgeoisie’ began to evolve from a primarily mercantile social class now ostensibly freed from colonial control.
There were, nonetheless, several strong barriers to the development and progress of a middle class whose European equivalents had brought about the industrial revolution. In Sudan they lacked the major prerequisites for industrialisation – namely capital, technical and scientific know-how and markets – and so their focus shifted from manufacturing production to the extraction of natural resources.
The collapse of attempts at industrialisation – mainly substitute industrialisation – led to exploitation of accessible natural resources in a manner so thoughtless and unscrupulous that it soon endangered the peasant and pastoralist societies in Northern Sudan. During the 1960s and 1970s Southern Sudan remained relatively unscathed, as a result of its isolation during colonial rule and the earlier civil war, and its poorly developed transport infrastructure.
Since the 1970s, the world trade system has been undergoing a structural crisis, and the efforts of the rich countries of the North to overcome this crisis had negative impact on the poorer countries of the South, clearly manifest in unfavourable terms of trade, servicing and repayment of foreign debt, structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) and a general worsening of the economic situation. This pressure has in turn been transmitted by the elite resource extractors of the South to the poorest people and their natural environment. Unfair terms of trade at international level are reflected in unfair terms of trade at the national level. Just as poor developing nations were exporting more and buying less, so the rural peasants and pastoralists were forced to produce more and buy less in the local market. Read more