Liberal Institutionalism in South Sudan: Explaining the Inability to Build Lasting Peace and an Empirical State

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Wight, Patrick
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University of Guelph

Much of the literature on the history of liberal peace- and state-building in South Sudan focuses most directly on the actions of the international community as being responsible for the intractable conflict and issues of state fragility. Implicit in such arguments is the assumption that, if Western donors, states and organizations simply remained more committed to their liberal ideals or devised more effective strategies, the situation would be more stable and prosperous. The central argument here is that state formation is primarily an internal process that cannot be manufactured effectively by foreign actors. Civil war and the inability to implement the liberal model are primarily explained by structural factors, within South Sudan and the international states system, that are not amenable to external manipulation. These include: the incipient and informal nature of the state, the character of relevant rebel and militia groups, the presence of oil, the country’s interactions within anarchic global systems and the arbitrary make-up of African states. These conditions also inhibit indigenous actors from achieving lasting peace and consolidating state power. While this analysis scrutinizes the liberal paradigm, the argument is not that the model of political and economic liberalization is mainly responsible for the persistence of conflict and state fragility. Instead, although efforts to implement the liberal model have arguably been counterproductive at times, they have in fact been largely inconsequential to the outcomes in South Sudan.

Conflict Resolution, Realism, Liberalism, Africa, Peace-Building, State-Building, Intervention