Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Sudan

 Sudan: Race, Religion, and Violence by Jok Madut Jok
Written in 2007 before the referendum on South Sudan and the independence of South Sudan in 2011, Jok’s book on Sudan provides good insight into the issues that caused the division of Sudan.  The book focuses on the time period after independence in 1956 where an Arab government has tried to convert the diverse population of Sudan to the Arab culture and Islamic religion.  The government gave preference to Arab Muslims over Black or African Muslims even though it is hard to distinguish and culture and ethnicity were fluid in the past.  As competition for scarce resources became more intense the government sided with Arab Muslims over all others and led to what the US has characterized as genocide in the Darfur region. However, the US and other world powers decided to take no action with Darfur in case it would disrupt the long-negotiated peace deal between the north and south.   
Jok was very thorough in his book and his details on military abuses, gender violence, resettlement, using aid to cause people to convert, starvation tactics, and the fight over oil revenues showed that the violence would continue after independence for South Sudan.  It seems that the war between Sudan and South Sudan has continued unabated as the north has bombed southern areas repeatedly and their respective militaries have engaged in combat on several occasions.  Sudan has also continued to repopulate Darfur and refugees continue to flee to Chad, CAR, and Sudan’s other neighbors.  Jok also foresaw the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments and arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir, issued in March 2009 for war crimes and in July 2010 for genocide and discussed the ICC investigations in 2006.
Sudan and South Sudan are still negotiating oil profits as most of the oil is produced in the south but must pass through the pipelines in the north to the refineries and Port of Sudan.  Other pipelines are under construction in the south to Kenya and through Ethiopia to Djibouti to provide alternate routes for the oil, but are not expected to be completed until 2015 or later.
Now that the southern issue has been resolved with the independence of South Sudan, what will happen with Darfur?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

UPDF Thesis Musings

At the beginning of summer I thought I had a great thesis idea, to explore the evolution of the Ugandan Peoples Defense Force (UPDF) from a bush army that brought Museveni to power to a professional fighting force leading the fight against Al Shabab in Somalia.  In May I traveled to Uganda for 30 days to research the UPDF and met with some Ugandan officers, soldiers, regular people, Ugandan military trainers, and politicians who fought with Museveni in the independence war.  However, it was hard to get information about the transformation of the UPDF.  People were very proud of the way they came to power defeating the government forces, and what they are doing now in Somalia and the region hunting the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), but didnt share much about the interim period.  While I was there an American researcher was arrested by the Ugandan secret police for asking too many questions of military officers so I ran out of sources.  After that, nobody wanted to discuss the UPDF and I didn't want to end up in a secret prison, so I dropped it.

I also discovered that although the UPDF is doing great things in Somalia and is a pretty good fighting force, some issues remain.  For example, there is no established program for promotion in the military and no retirement program.  You have to know someone to get promoted or a pay raise, which pays off if you are the President's son and just got promoted to General and placed in command of the Ugandan Special Forces.  However, there are many privates who have served since the bush wars and never got promoted or advanced.  One officer I interviewed said there was no retirement program so people serve indefinitely because there is no life after the military.  That's also why many of the military leaders develop side businesses (like rental vehicle agencies, shipping companies, hotels).  The officer also explained that the Ugandan budget did not provide for pay or planning beyond the month or year so there was no assurances that there would be pay for retirees in the future.  He did say that he got special government housing as a perk.  Another concern I had about the UPDF is that some leaders had risen to power after being implicated in the violent suppression of the opposition. 

As it comes time to officially commit to a thesis I am starting to doubt my thesis.  Is there enough substance to this topic?

Other ideas I had were to explore the security situation in Chad, looking at the 2008 rebel advance, French support, tribal pressures, Libyan interference, and religious conflict.  The other idea was look into the bromance between Museveni, Kagame, and Kabila from their origins in the bush to current discord with Uganda forces banned from the DRC and Rwanda forces messing around in the DRC.

There isn't a whole lot written about Chad so it will be hard to find a multitude of sources.  However, there is a whole lot written about the MKK love triangle and their involvement of the wars of central Africa.  I have always thought it was interesting how Kagame worked for Museveni when Museveni was fighting to come to power.  Then Museveni and Kagame brought Kabila to power but were given the boot after the second Congo war.  Their relationships still affect conflict in the region.

Any suggestions?