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When kleptocracy becomes insolvent: brute causes of the civil war in South Sudan

de Waal, Alex (2014) When kleptocracy becomes insolvent: brute causes of the civil war in South Sudan. African Affairs, 113 (452). pp. 347-369. ISSN 0001-9909

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Identification Number: 10.1093/afraf/adu028


South Sudan obtained independence in July 2011 as a kleptocracy – a militarized, corrupt neo-patrimonial system of governance. By the time of independence, the South Sudanese “political marketplace” was so expensive that the country's comparatively copious revenue was consumed by the military-political patronage system, with almost nothing left for public services, development or institution building. The efforts of national technocrats and foreign donors produced bubbles of institutional integrity but the system as a whole was entirely resistant to reform. The January 2012 shutdown of oil production bankrupted the system. Even an experienced and talented political business manager would have struggled, and President Salva Kiir did not display the required skills. No sooner had shots been fired than the compact holding the SPLA together fell apart and civil war ensued. Drawing upon long-term observation of elite politics in South Sudan, this article explains both the roots of kleptocratic government and its dire consequences.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 The Author
Divisions: Justice and Security Research Programme
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2014 11:52
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2022 00:14

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