The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

“Step One to a messy divorce”

April 26, 2010

Sorry I’ve been out of the loop for a month or so — I volunteered to lead a search committee for the head of a local organization and I’m just now catching my breath. (Note to self: Volunteering is really hard work and takes a ton of time…)

So, I opened the New York Times this morning and notice that Africa’s largest country may be on the brink of splitting apart after the country’s presidential elections earlier this month. The rivals, Omar Bashir and Salva Kiir (indicted war criminal and former rebel leader respectively — great choices) have completely consolidated their control — Bashir in the north and Kiir in the south — of the country. Conventional wisdom says that this will make next year’s scheduled referendum on southern independence very intense.

However, I was intrigued with a proposition posed in the NYTimes story: Oil might be the glue that keeps the country together — both Bashir and Kiir rely heavily on oil revenues and may not want to jeopardize the money flow. This seems a stretch to me and I can’t think of any case where oil has been something that keeps divergent factions together, but I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this or can think of cases where oil or cash commodities have played such a role?

Parenthetically, I’d like to note the excellent work of a friend, Pete Muller, a photo-journalist who is based in Juba, Sudan. He’s had a recent bout with malaria and a couple of close calls in southern Sudan and eastern DRC, but he’s been reporting great stuff for AP, Financial Times, Al Jazeera and others.

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.