Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Peace and War in South Sudan

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An article in Saturday’s New York Times entitled “Violence Grips South Sudan as Vote Nears” reminded me of a 2008 research paper by Ibrahim Elbadawi, Gary Milante and Constantino Pischadda which models the relationship between Juba and Khartoum as a “game” leading up to the referendum in 2011. 

They show that excessive militarization and brinksmanship can be a rational response for both actors, neither of which can credibly commit to lower levels of military spending under the current status quo.  Life imitates research.

While the Times article portrays the heightened violence as attempts by Khartoum to create divisions within the south Sudanese and split the vote in 2011, the paper by Ibrahim and co-authors points out that this excessive militarization, while rational, comes at the expense of much-needed health and education expenditures—and could be avoided by greater transparency, democratization and economic cooperation. 


Shanta Devarajan

Teaching Professor of the Practice Chair, International Development Concentration, Georgetown University

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