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Rift Valley Institute Field Courses 2014 - Sudan & South Sudan Course preview from Director of Studies, Dr Sharath Srinivasan

last modified May 01, 2014 12:14 PM
17th March 2014


Writing in the institute's newsletter, the Directors of Studies for the three 2014 RVI Field Courses have given a preview of the new themes—and new teachers—on this year's courses. Writing about the Sudan & South Sudan Course, of which he is Director of Studies, Dr Sharath Srinivasan provided an overview of the academics and practitioners who will be contributing to the course and the themes that it will examine, ranging from an examination of the underlying drivers of the renewed conflict; the economic dimensions of state stability and development and relations between Sudan and South Sudan; practices of authority and allegiance at local levels in South Sudan; and the influence of civil society and women.

Dr Srinivasan writes:

'This year's RVI Sudan and South Sudan Course takes place during resurgent violence and political instability in both countries that demands a rethink on political forecasts. Both the dominant NCP in Sudan and the SPLM/A in South Sudan face crises from within and without. Elections slated for 2015 in both countries have been pre-empted by political contestation and maneuvering, with incumbent leaders tightening their grip on control. The rapid descent into violent conflict and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan was perhaps more a shock than a surprise, and the prospects for a rapid solution are hindered by regional jockeying, inter-group enmities and splits in the SPLM that cut multiple ways. In Sudan, rebellion, political opposition and popular protest spiked during the past year but hardly threatened the government, and despite an internal split, the NCP continues to deftly play off one group against another while at the same time promising reform.

To make sense of current dynamics, the course roots salient themes in their near and distant past. Justin Willis (Durham University) will challenge our assumptions on the state's paradoxical role as both cause and solution to the woes of both countries. Jok Madut Jok(Loyola Marymount University) and Douglas Johnson (Independent Scholar) will interrogate the underlying drivers of South Sudan's crisis. Magdi el-Gizouli (Freiburg University) will sharpen our assessments of political fluctuations in Sudan, giving us a long view of the NCP's 25 years in power and the regime's many reincarnations. Guma Komey(University of Bahri) and Jérôme Tubiana (International Crisis Group) will evaluate the state of rebellions in Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile, including their growing interconnections. Laura James (former economic adviser, AUHIP) will give clarity to the economic dimensions, including oil, of state stability and development and relations between both countries.

However gripping current events are, crises, crossroads and elite contestations have been commonplace in the Sudans. A fuller picture of how everyday politics works emerges when viewed at a closer range. Cherry Leonardi (Durham University) will examine practices of authority and allegiance at local levels in South Sudan, Youssif El Tayeb El Nour (Darfur Development and Reconstruction Agency) will probe shifting patterns of resource conflict in Darfur, and Joanna Oyediran (Open Society Institute for East Africa) and Nada Mustafa Ali (Clark University) will examine the influence of civil society and women. Appreciating lives lived—cultures, beliefs, social identities, livelihoods, geographies—grounds our understanding in places and amongst peoples, often revealing a great deal about deeper influences on politics and economics. Our interactive sessions will draw upon contributions from many of our teachers, including John Ryle (Rift Valley InstituteBard College).

A historical reflection on external intervention in both countries under all its guises will ground our discussion of the state of current initiatives. The era of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement is over, and intervention frameworks have lurched back again from democratic openings and peacebuilding to stabilization, large-scale humanitarian assistance and conflict mediation. Dan Large (Central European University) will lead our discussions, tackling a number of key questions. These include: What are the prospects for UNMISS mandate and scope? Is the Doha Agreement still operative in Darfur? Four years on, how do we assess the AUHIP? Can IGAD effectively play the role of mediator given conflicting regional interests? What lessons can be drawn from previous international interventions in the Sudans?

With renewed urgency to understand, analyze and debate, the week promises to be lively. We hope you will join what many of us consider to be a highlight of our year's work.'

The full newsletter is available to read here.