Over the Horizon: Learning From History in South Sudan

Over the Horizon: Learning From History in South Sudan

On Saturday, South Sudan achieved formal independence from the central Sudanese government in Khartoum. The event was cause for considerable celebration as well as several rounds of expressions of concern from observers in Africa and the West. While the status quo was untenable, the prospects for South Sudan look far from bright. It lacks both a well-defined border with its hostile mother-state and control over much of its own territory, and appears to have minimal administrative, military or normative capacity. In other words, it's a disaster waiting to happen.

The bleak scenario facing Juba raises the question: What have we learned in 40 years of post-colonial history to give South Sudan a better chance?

In "Dancing in the Glory of Monsters," a history of the two Congo wars of the 1990s, Jason Stearns details the failures of post-colonial governance in Zaire that led to the collapse of state institutions, and chronicles the subsequent continued failure of Congo's leaders to build a viable state. Although the book is outstanding, the truth is that it's easy to identify in retrospect what the leadership of any particular developing country did wrong. The post-colonial history of Africa is littered with examples of mistakes, some forced and others unforced. South Sudan's leaders now face a different, more complicated question: Knowing now what the post-colonial African leaders did not know then, what can they do better? Have 40 years of social science and development experience offered the new leaders of developing countries any tools for achieving success?

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review