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Sudan: In a Procrustean Bed with Crisis

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image of International Negotiation

Civil war in Sudan ‐ first between the North and the South, then in Darfur ‐ extends over half a century, interrupted only by a spell of uneasy peace between 1972 and 1983. Over time, a number of analytical templates have been propounded to account for the quasi-permanent crisis. The causes for conflict in Sudan have thus been pegged to the legacy of colonialism, ethno-religious divide, Islamist terrorism, a resource war, state failure, regional conflict concatenation, genocide, and a “turbulent state paradigm” (Alex de Waal). This article takes stock of the various frameworks offered for explanation both in academic writing and the broader media discourse on Sudan. The critical assessment provides for a rehearsal of available scholarship and leads to three interlocking conclusions: (1) the translation of local/national conflict into relevant international language is a form of reciprocal resource mobilization; (2) conflict analysis, and with all the more reason conflict management, are always part of the unfolding crisis they strive to come to terms with; and (3) conflict analysis ought to be predicated on an “uncertainty principle” akin to the one postulated by Werner Heisenberg for quantum physics, because the momentum of a conflict and its analytical fixation inexorably escape each other.

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