Trajectories of Change, from Armed Struggle to Politics: The Transformation of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) from a Liberation Movement into a Political Party
The end of the Cold War catalysed a range of civil wars and separatist conflicts that battled for government control around the globe. Most of them were resolved through peace agreements which led rebels to lay down their arms and adopt political strategies to pursue their goals. A primary challenge...
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|Summary:||The end of the Cold War catalysed a range of civil wars and separatist conflicts that battled for government control around the globe. Most of them were resolved through peace agreements which led rebels to lay down their arms and adopt political strategies to pursue their goals. A primary challenge for any resistance or liberation movement is how to win legitimacy and support from the population. This thesis is a case study on the transformation of the Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) from a liberation movement to a political party and, later, government. It provides a context-specific understanding and analysis of how the liberation movement garnered legitimacy by tapping into local and international support in the liberation war. The analysis uses legitimacy as the optic for exploring the historical narrative and process-tracing to unearth multifaceted and interactive mechanisms, and strategies facilitating the liberation movement’s quest to consolidate domestic and international legitimacy during the period of struggle.
The study employs a theoretical framework focusing on the concept of legitimacy as developed by Max Weber and other scholars. The theoretical approach expands the application of the term ‘legitimacy’ by including concepts such as revolutionary ideology, and performance, or eudaemonic legitimacy. Revolutionary ideology plays a vital role in helping a liberation movement to garner support and political legitimacy from the population during a conflict. It also arises through the invocation of universal values such as freedom, equality, and social justice democracy. Equally important is performance or eudaemonic legitimacy, which is measured by the ability of a former liberation movement to fulfil its revolutionary promises in the aftermath of (violent) conflict. Such a process entails the fulfilment and deliverance of ideals of liberation earlier promised during a struggle period.
The promises may include the provision of security, public goods, and welfare to the citizens. However, in comparison to motives, objectives and aspirations of the SPLM/A during the liberation war against the central government in Khartoum, key findings on SPLM/A’s trajectory from a rebel movement to a government in the post-conflict period are not encouraging. The optimism, the hard-won jubilation, and the revolutionary legitimacy that catapulted the SPLM/A to power and the subsequent secession and independence in July 2011 quickly began to wane. The study found that SPLM/A’s legitimacy in the post-CPA and independence period continues to decline, and the South Sudanese do not enjoy the fruits of the liberation struggle. The findings also indicate that the SPLM/A is stuck in a political limbo: it retains many traits of a liberation movement, while its free ride during the CPA-mandated interim period en route to forming South Sudan’s first government has in effect worked against its aspiration to transform into a legitimate political party.|