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The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars: Peace or Truce (African Issues) Paperback – 24 Aug 2012


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By updating the book to include southern Sudan's independence, Johnson has given us a very important and useful survey history of Sudan. AFRICAN STUDIES QUARTERLY There is nothing to compare with The Root Causes, and it remains essential reading for anyone interested in the history of the civil wars. AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW Recommended. CHOICE Much the most useful telling of the whole course of the SPLA war and the historical background to that war. REVIEWS OF THE FIRST EDITION Anyone wanting to understand this African tragedy should read Douglas Johnson's The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars ...a brilliant analysis of the war and its causes written in simple, clear prose. THE ECONOMIST Douglas Johnson has written a landmark book that deserves not only to change the nature of Sudan studies but how we think of war, peace and development generally. It is a task for which he is well qualified. As a historian with an anthropologist's eye, his interests span pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial conditions. Unique among contemporary writers, Johnson has not only made major contributions to the historiography of Sudan and the interpretation of its rich ethnography, he has also worked for the aid agencies that now populate much of this country. From this wide vantage point Johnson's critical book succeeds in rescuing Sudan from the heart of darkness that continues to be conjured by whistle-stop journalists and self-serving NGOs. (...) Douglas Johnson has written an important book. Not least, because it brings politics back into the North-South equation. Mark Duffield in JOURNAL OF REFUGEE STUDIES This authoritative and detailed study of Sudan's contemporary conflicts aims to discourage quick fix thinking by tracing the historical patterns of power and politics that have brought the country to its current impasse. (...) Students and researchers will benefit from the extended bibliographic essay and chronology included in this excellent book. FOREIGN AFFAIRS

About the Author

Douglas H. Johnson is an independent scholar and former international expert on the Abyei Boundaries Commission


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Amazon.com: HASH(0x8fb9a708) out of 5 stars 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ffe0c0c) out of 5 stars A comprehensive study with a useful framework for analyzing past and present conflict in Sudan and South Sudan 28 Aug. 2014
By D.K. Thompson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been doing research on Sudan and South Sudan in academic and organizational settings since my third year of college and have read just about every book that focuses on conflict in Sudan. Douglas Johnson's work is the most comprehensive, although I recommend reading work by R.O. Collins, J.M. Jok, S.E. Hutchinson, P.A. Nyaba, Alex de Waal, and John Young as well for various approaches and perspectives on Sudan's conflict. Johnson frames his assessment of the history of conflict in Sudan as a matter of unequal distribution of power and wealth between the center and peripheries. Over the past several hundred years, the political center has shifted from Darfur/Kordofan during the Mahdi's time, to colonial power focused on agricultural schemes, to riverine Arab groups that dominated politics from Sudan's independence in 1956 until South Sudan's independence in 2011, and continue to dominate Sudan today.

Johnson traces the development of uneven power relationships, specifically focusing on issues of land appropriation on Sudan's margins that produced disaffection among groups that the state ostensibly should have been serving. Center-periphery relations are framed both in political and spatial terms, and the overlaps between these are covered fairly well in Johnson's work. The complexities produced by these political and spatial dynamics are very nuanced: for example, during the 1970s, Equatorian politicians sided with President Nimeiry (political center at the time) in favor of federalism for South Sudan; however, this decentralization of power would have actually produced weaker states rather than strength in Southern Sudan, and thus it was opposed by the more powerful politicians in Juba. Furthermore, Nimeiry's offer of federalism elided the issue of Khartoum's appropriation of Unity State and sections of Upper Nile that were found during the 1970s to contain oil reserves.

This updated version of "Root Causes" brings the analysis of relations between center and periphery right up to South Sudan's independence, and proves relevant to conceptualizing dynamics in both Sudan and South Sudan as civil wars continue to rage on multiple fronts in both countries. Johnson treats fairly carefully the coalitions and fractions of various political parties, although for more in-depth histories of political groups, other supplemental sources are needed (for anyone interested, I have created a visual timeline: http://mapeastafrica.com/sudan-political-timelines-project/). Johnson's conclusion is that the fundamental relations of power in Sudan have not changed, despite South Sudan's independence. The continuing drive to privatize communal land in the name of development continues to enrich the political elite while destroying livelihoods and producing rebellions on the peripheries.

Overall, I found this book informative and worth reading. The timeline in the back of the book also allows the reader to glance at an overview of events as he or she progresses through Sudan's recent history. Along with P.A. Nyaba's "The Politics of Liberation in South Sudan" and Jok Madut Jok's "Sudan: Race, Religion and Violence," I class this as a must-read for those wishing to learn about the recent history of Sudan and South Sudan.
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