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Author: Sara de Simone

Abstract

Consistently with a more general trend of devolving administrative tasks to traditional authorities in Africa, local chiefs in Southern Sudan have been involved in decentralized state building with various functions and their historical role of local communities’ gatekeepers has therefore been confirmed and even reinforced. This chapter shows that this was the result of the SPLM’s reliance on local traditional authorities during the war – and the consequent need to reward them – as well as of several donors’ desire to “work with the grain”, empowering local authorities that could ease the broadcasting of state power over the predominantly rural Southern Sudanese society without implementing radical reforms. This, however, resulted in an unclear division of roles between customary and statutory authorities, sometimes causing competition between the two, as well as in a confusing understanding of what is needed to have basic services delivered to the local population. It thus feeds into bottom-up understanding and expectations about the state, as well as strategies of partaking in state-related resources.

In a context dominated by a neoliberal approach to service delivery, in which donors have actively engaged to strengthen state legitimacy and to prevent an arguably otherwise inescapable return to civil war, local traditional authorities have become the major channel through which the local population attempts to “capture” the state structure and be recognized as part of it. Through a case study from Yirol West County, targeted by a donor-funded project supporting local level service delivery, the chapter dissects the process of progressive administrative fragmentation involving communities increasingly defined in ethnic and kinship terms. While this trend is a consequence of the incentives and opportunity structure created by state-building programs and by the decentralization reform, it impacts deeply on the underlying process of state formation encouraging fragmentation as a means to place claims of recognition and access to resources from the state.

In: State-building South Sudan
Author: Sara de Simone

Abstract

The analysis of the land governance reform in post-conflict South Sudan adds another dimension to the process of administrative fragmentation along ethnic lines outlined in the previous chapter.

This chapter draws on the rich scholarly literature linking land governance reforms to processes of state formation and to the legacies of colonialism in Africa. It analyses the involvement of the international donor community in the post-conflict land governance reform and the creation of institutions regulating access and ownership of land as one of the aspects of the state-building enterprise. Consistently with the SPLM’s will and with previous experiences of land governance, a bifurcated land tenure system between rural and urban areas was enforced in post-CPA Southern Sudan with customary and communal land rights legally recognized in the rural areas.

After briefly illustrating the post-conflict legal framework and the historical linkages between access to land and ethnic identity inherited by the colonial era in much of rural Africa, this chapter shows the overlapping between the land governance framework and the decentralized government system. It argues that this resulted in the dilemma of clearly identifying local boundaries: between vaguely defined “local communities”, between local administrative units, between modernity and tradition.

Through case studies from several regions of South Sudan, this chapter analyses land – and boundary – related conflicts that result in societal fragmentation along ethnic lines as a means to access the resources expected from the newly established state. It thus strengthens the argument that the donor-sponsored land governance reform, matched with the local government reform, have contributed to the creation of an opportunity structure incentivizing the politicization of ethnic identity as one of the major features of the state formation process.

In: State-building South Sudan
Author: Sara de Simone

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the post-conflict decentralization reform as one of the most important features of state building in South Sudan, sponsored both by the SPLM/Government of Southern Sudan and by the international donor community as a vital tool to deactivate local conflicts and make local governance more effective and transparent. After briefly analyzing the theoretical background of decentralization reforms in post-conflict societies, the chapter outlines the post-Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) legal framework regulating the creation and functioning of local government institutions. It shows how the technical approach to what was treated as a mere administrative reform by the international donor community allowed a superficial implementation, outstandingly dominated by efforts to create some sort of “aesthetics of the state” and to increase its legibility vis-à-vis external actors. The chapter argues that the political elite’s engagement in such window-dressing reforms, which is described as a form of isomorphic mimicry, constitutes another form of extraversion in the process of state-making as it allows to retain access to donors’ resources while substantially keeping power relations between the center and the periphery untouched. At the same time, in creating institutions, procedures, routines and various forms of paperwork, it follows one of the patterns of state formation that have characterized Southern Sudan history, that of the creation of habits and practices in the actions of the state that could be recognized by external observers as signals of a functioning state.

In: State-building South Sudan
Author: Sara de Simone

Abstract

This chapter addresses the intertwining of voluntary state-building efforts with processes of state(s) formation along the recent history of Southern Sudan, identifying three main patterns of state building: physical violence/coercion, bureaucratization of government practices and the creation of legitimacy. It takes the Turco-Egyptian conquest of the region as the first moment in history when the idea of a centralized power above local polities started penetrating the region, initially through violence but later evolving into the routinization of government practices, which gave some degree of predictability to the relations between local societies and the state administration. Local political entrepreneurs who managed to master this predictability found a new source of legitimacy in the colonial state, implementing, for the first time, a strategy of extraverted accumulation of power. Colonial-time local leaders (the so-called traditional chiefs) retained their legitimacy also during post-colonial attempts at building the local state in the southern region, giving continuity to a process of state formation that relied on ethnic belonging as the major vehicle to access state resources. This process contributed to the civil war after the collapse of the Addis Ababa Agreement in the early 1980s.

In: State-building South Sudan
Author: Sara de Simone

Abstract

Drawing on the case studies and on the arguments presented in the chapters, the conclusion shows that state formation in South Sudan is deeply influenced by the legacies of colonialism and of the civil wars of the 20th century. It argues that a focus on state formation, understood as a conflictive and cumulative process pertaining to the longue durée and to the self-serving actions of various local actors, contributes to shedding light on the actual outcome of state building. The latter constitutes a negotiation arena where many different actors pursue different objectives: international donors, driven by the liberal peace principles; local elites, moved by the desire of obtaining and consolidating their power; ordinary people, seeking for rights and entitlements that they believe to be attached to the conquest of their own independent state. Their actions contribute to the reproduction of modes of governance and of a state-society relationship that largely constitutes the essence of Southern Sudan’s statehood. In emphasizing the outcome of state-building as one of extreme ethnic fragmentation and politicization of ethnic identity, the conclusion links the process of state formation to the root causes of the current civil war.

In: State-building South Sudan
Author: Sara de Simone

Abstract

The introduction provides a brief account of events that led South Sudan back to civil war in December 2013, and links these events with the failure of the state-building project implemented since the latest years of the war. It provides a short theoretical discussion about post-conflict international state building, contextualizing international donors’ engagement in Southern Sudan after the end of the war in 2005 within the liberal peace framework and showing the convergence between different state building projects – the international one and the one pursued by the Southern Sudanese elite. It introduces the concept of extraversion (), arguing that Southern Sudanese political elites have always relied, to some extent, on their dependent position from external resources in the accumulation of power and legitimacy. Drawing on African Studies and International Relations literature, it shows that the outcome of the negotiation between different state-building projects is better understood as a process of state formation, which is cumulative, conflictive, non-linear and deeply shaped by endogenous historical and social dynamics that influence not only the nature of statehood but also the relationship between state and society.

The introduction then discusses the research methodology adopted, including the locations visited, the time spent on the field and the kind of research activities carried out. It identifies the years between 1999 and 2013 as crucial for understanding the flaws of the state-building enterprise and the patterns of state-society relation and accumulation of power that developed and strengthened to the point of their collapse.

Finally, it provides the outline of the book.

In: State-building South Sudan
Author: Sara de Simone

Abstract

This chapter focuses on SPLM’s state-building attempts during the civil war and on how its experience of guerrilla government shaped its state-building project for post-war Southern Sudan. Particularly, it analyzes the strong relationship developed in the latest years of the civil war between the rebel movement and international agencies providing humanitarian aid to Southern Sudan. The chapter argues that international programs represented a new thrust of externally led state-building efforts aimed at establishing a central, unique source of authority capable of controlling the “liberated areas”. Similarly to that of colonial times, this thrust only partially influenced the local process of state formation in Southern Sudan, but provided valuable resources that the local politico-military elite exploited to strengthen its positions and to pursue its agenda. The ability of the SPLM leadership in implementing strategies of extraversion to capture external resources, as well as the depoliticizing discourses around international state-building intervention made this convergence possible, with SPLM governance structures progressively turning into state structures through international support. Such programs contributed strengthening the civil character of the SPLM and to configure what, by the end of the 2010s, already looked like an independent state.

In: State-building South Sudan
International Intervention and the Formation of a Fragmented State
Author: Sara de Simone
How did South Sudan become one of the most striking examples of state-building failure and state collapse after years of international support? What went wrong in the state-building enterprise? How did external intervention overlap and intertwine with local processes of accumulation of power and of state formation? This book addresses these questions analysing the intersection between international and local actors and processes. Based on original ethnographic and archival data, it provides a unique account of how state-building resources were captured and manipulated by local actors at various levels, contributing to the deepening of ethnic fragmentation and the politicization of ethnicity.