Sudan’s second civil war, lasting from 1983 – 2004 and the longest in history of the modern-day African continent, was fundamentally caused by a lack of national development. In reality, this conflict was also caused by a failure to effectively reintegrate a particular armed group after the end of the first civil war. The unresolved tensions that festered as a result were further exacerbated by the power struggle over natural resources between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). At the same time, the intensified second war was indubitably caused by issues of development such as poverty, dismal prospects for a decent livelihood and unequal access to opportunity.
Sudan has one of the highest foreign debt ratios in Africa, at over US $21 billion, with South Sudan (formerly created in 2011) comprising the majority of the former state’s rural poor. By the time a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed by the warring groups in January 2005, 2 million people had already been killed with 4.5 million left displaced by Sudan’s most recent civil war. Moreover, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs that typically follow – with the primary objective of reincorporating ex-combatants into civil society – have not achieved much success for a variety of reasons. One key challenge was the lack of a political allegiance to the CPA and widespread distrust in the peacekeeping process by all involved. Notwithstanding the efforts that have been made to promote DDR as a peace building tool in the South Sudan state in particular, any attempt to employ DDR strategies outside of a simultaneous commitment to reinforcing the nation’s institutional capacity frankly will not work.
It is essential that DDR be approached as an integral component of a country’s national development framework. For example, despite the notable macroeconomic reforms that Sudan executed in the 1990s towards greater stabilization and liberalization of its economy, it failed to make comparable upgrades to its governance and institutional structures. As a result, broadening the framework for development by way of the 2nd generation of DDR would enable DDR to uphold its longstanding to institutional development. Where such a national planning and development strategy might be lacking, DDR can be implemented as the foundation towards which an expansive framework is established that could capitalize on and redirect the fervor of ex-combatants regarding war and defense towards a passion for national building and restoration. In this sense, DDR could provide an opportunity whereby reintegration is closely associated with infrastructure creation – for example where ex-combatants are provided with shovel-ready opportunities (no pun intended) to be rehabilitated and to normalize their re-entry into society. Along this vein, a national strategic plan can be useful in identifying key industries where production could be incentivized so as to tap into an already available workforce of ex-combatants.
Ultimately, DDR has to effectively incorporate approaches that address economic security, social security and the wellbeing of the country’s people by bolstering the state’s institutional infrastructure. While directly addressing the aftermath of war, an large-scale national development framework has greater potential to put the country on a course towards comprehensive long-term development.