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We know them: images of the enemy and decision making in the Sudan-South Sudan secession negotiations

4th May 2015

CGHR Research Group Seminar

We know them: images of the enemy and decision making in the Sudan-South Sudan secession negotiations

Dr Laura James (POLIS, University of Cambridge)

Discussant: Dr Hazem Kandil (Dept. of  Sociology, University of Cambridge)

The paper analyses the 2011 economic secession negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan through an “images of the enemy” lens. The case study is of interest because, while hostile, the negotiators knew each other very well over many years, which might have been expected to minimise the likelihood of misperceptions. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including unpublished minutes, the analysis focuses on four key moments in the negotiations, when major decisions were made moving from cooperation to confrontation, culminating in Sudan’s seizure of Southern oil in late December 2011, swiftly followed by South Sudan’s unprecedented shutdown of the oil sector in January 2012. These decisions are assessed using a multi-level framework, including both material and ideational factors. The paper concludes that, while they are by no means the major determinant, an understanding of the development of hostile images makes a useful contribution to explaining the decisions. It also confirms and expands on some specific hypotheses regarding the tendency to over-estimate the hostility and under-estimate the relative capability of the enemy; and suggests a need for further study of how images can change gradually, and of the centrality of historical experience to the content of enemy images.