The Alternative Proposal





The paper is meant to contribute to the ongoing talks between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement /Army In Opposition (SPLM/IO). I have been greatly encouraged by the recent move taken by the leaders of the two warring factions to end the violence and return the country to peace. My contribution will center on the proposed “transitional government,” which in all likelihood, will be a government of national unity composed of various factions within the SPLM/A. If this is the case, it will have no difference to the Government of South Sudan (GOSS), which despite some key accomplishments, remains a reminder of over eight (2005-2013) years of unmet expectations and disillusionments for most of the country’s citizenry. The high expectations held by the citizenry were impossible to be met under the circumstances. It is in this light that I urge the two leaders, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar Teny, to consider trying something unexpected, bold and magnanimous – that is, to consider the great advantage of taking no part in the upcoming transitional government.  Not only would this create the most optimal environment for national reconciliation and institutional development in the country, but would go forth in the history of our country, the region and the world, as among the most noble manifestation of leadership. This is not simply because they bear a direct responsibility for the ongoing ordeals in the country, but because they have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and restore confidence to a young nation overtaken by a self-doubt.


And while I am at it, I should also express my disappointment for the dishonoring of the agreement, less than 24 hours after it was signed. I hope the two leaders will continue the courage they have shown and march on the path of peace. In a sense, this paper is a direct appeal to them to put aside their ambitions or grievances – many of which are genuine – and consider our larger interests as a people. I also ask of the reader to free himself/herself of partisan emotions and rely on reason alone. I ask that he/she minimizes biases, including any towards the author, and consider solely the merits of the argument put forth. This is the only way we can have an honest dialogue in efforts to end this ugly spasm of violence for which our country has become famous. This is all I ask.


I had no interest to make public such an argument at first because there were many South Sudanese of knowledge, experience and imagination that were engaged in the peace process. I did not see a need to directly engage, as I felt secured in the belief that my views would be adequately represented (and this “alternative proposal” is not a withdrawal of that confidence). Simply, on 10 May, I received an invitation from the Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Addis Ababa to a conference on “national security interests and the regional response to security crises in the Greater Horn of Africa” that would look at the interaction of national and regional interests in cases of crises and regional interventions.


This is quite an exciting conference for a contradictory policy exists in the horn of Africa – the pursuit of national interests defined narrowly, on the one hand, and on the other, the use of increasingly influential cooperative multilateral mechanisms in responding to regional security threats and challenges1. This makes it critical for each country to adequately define its national interests since “the national security interests of individual states are usually not articulated in regional security discussions”2. Such a task seemed urgent for South Sudan – a country embroiled in a conflict shaped by mass murder, rape, death and crimes against humanity and on whose sake a regional intervention is being hatched. This is because a stable South Sudan is a shared regional interest!


Being of the view that South Sudan’s national interests ought to be purposefully articulated and contextualized in the larger regional interests (if done, it has largely been at the back channels, but not in a transparent and analytical fashion), I seized on this invitation as an opportunity to reflect aloud on what I believe to be such national interests. I then used them to offer a few thoughts on securing a long-term peace and prosperity, and for evaluating the most optimal role President Kiir and Dr. Riek can play in their pursuit. Being mindful of Dante’s assertion that “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality,3” I break my silence in the exercise of the “right not to go to the hottest place in hell” and offer my humble opinion as a citizen in our ongoing process of finding a permanent peace. It is through this engaging evaluation of realities that I arrived at this most solemn and definitive conclusion: that for the enduring glory of their names, the sake of South Sudan’s national interests and the promotion of regional security interests, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar Teny should consider waiving their rights to any public office in the upcoming transitional government. They should instead draw up the agenda for the interim government, define its work plan, its budget, its security forces, its civil service – essentially restructure the state – and supervise this work plan during the transition period. I propose that they sit in the group of six guarantors to be created following the signing agreement that could include the Ethiopian Prime Minister, the three mediators and the duo – Gen. Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar. The interim government of South Sudan can then engage with this core group in issues relating to its progress as a mechanism for engaging with the region and the world.


I must confess, comrade, that at first, I doubted the potential success of my efforts. I was so convinced that Gen. Salva and Dr. Riek would not heed my advice. This is because of the unceasing negative campaigns that their two sides have waged on each other. Through their spokesmen, Facebook warriors and propagandists, each has nearly convinced us that the other is the “devil,” “a dictator”, or “a prophet of doom”. Such repeated narrations of negative campaigns have the potential to evoke cynicism in people. As such, I doubted the fruit of this labor, thinking that the two leaders may not seriously consider my proposal. But knowing who they are, recalling their gallant toils in the implementation of the CPA – particularly in bringing about the exercise of the right to self-determination – and their prudent exercise of restraint amidst landmines along the way until independence, I thought I took a chance. Through their cooperation, they were able to successfully implement the CPA. Despite the mistakes committed along this journey, they still have the chance to fix most of the issues. They can sign a mega deal that not only would lay a solid constitutional foundation for the country, but also clears its payroll, its army, police, and all its institutions.


The rest of the paper is organized as follows: chapter 2 provides the background and the context; chapter 3 takes a step back and consider “ideas of state”; chapter 4 explores the national interest; and the last chapter concludes. Inherent throughout the paper, is a theme that Salva and Riek have the opportunity to make a deal that would allow our country to hit “two birds with one stone”.




The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement / Army (SPLM/A) signaled the birth of “second republic of the new Sudan.” The SPLM envisioned a complete transformation of the Sudan’s politics, economy and society, and committed itself to bring forth “a great nation that is voluntarily united in diversity.4” The SPLM/A was to ensure that the new political order was inclusive, that the voices of the marginalized were heard, and that a true economic revolution takes shape – “growth through rural development and transformation of traditional agriculture” – made possible by construction of infrastructure, empowerment of citizens, and delivery of service; these efforts were to culminate in the “taking of towns to the villages”.  In short, the desired democratic, pluralistic and economically viable Sudan that has eluded various regimes in Khartoum since independence was to be brought about through the SPLM/A’s exercise of political authority.


To be sure, the CPA did not grant monopoly power to the SPLM/A in the Sudan.  Its partner in peace, the National Congress Party (NCP), was to retain 52 percent of seats in CPA-created Government of National Unity (GoNU), and with only 28 percent of seats in GoNU, there would be little that the SPLM could do without the approval of the NCP to realize its ambitious transformational agenda for the country5.  However, the CPA guaranteed to the SPLM/A 50 percent of oil revenues from wells located inside southern Sudan and a near total monopoly of power in the South – thus, providing the SPLM/A with resources and a territory where it could demonstrate its vision of the “new Sudan” with little hindrance.


Following six years of interim period, not only was unity of Sudan not possible, but neither was there any meaningful transformation of economy, politics, and society to speak of, even in the South. The economic transformation envisioned in the SPLM Strategic Framework for War to Peace Transition, 2004, was, by and large, unattained, and South Sudan gained statehood as an oil-dependent nation6. The poor state of development in South Sudan to which Dr. John Garang de Mabior devoted a great deal of his CPA speech – “prevalence of child malnutrition, primary education, mortality rates among children, rate of maternal mortality, rate of births attended by skilled health staff, access to improved water sources,” kilometers of paved roads, etc., – still remains the state of affairs. Aside, the level of internal insecurity in the country before the current crisis came to resemble the war era statistics; the tribal identities7 became more pronounced; poor capacity persists in the institutions of governance8 with the world’s youngest nation garnering fame for corruption and its unprecedented notoriety for violence than for anything else. These crises are not simply threats to the attainment of South Sudan’s national interests, but threats to the wider achievement of regional security interests.


Moreover, the institutions established through the transformation of the SPLM/A’s, i.e. the civil government (GOSS), the army (SPLA), and the political party (SPLM), have been unable to deliver on their obligations9. Instead, institutional growth and development has become utterly paralyzed by the unceasing factional infighting between within the movement since the CPA. Such is the context from which I contend that the current crisis presents an opportune moment rectify some of our staggering shortcomings. It is an opportunity to return our country to peace and structure its institutions of governance, incorporating the lessons of the last eight years. Having presided over the Presidency over the interim period and the first two years of independent South Sudan, it is appropriate that both Salva and Riek relinquish the implementation of the reform agenda they will agree to a third person. This way, they will actively engage in the national reconciliation process, and later seek public office in the elections if they want to return to power. It is not possible for a significantly reformed state to emerge in South Sudan if Kiir and Machar return to the helm. Past mistakes are likely to be recommitted. However, if they agree a reform agenda during the negotiations, a leader from within the SPLM/A can be mandated to implement the agreement. This would restore the image of the country and underscore the sincerity of its leaders. Both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar could receive global and regional acclaims, while at the same time, monitor the implementation of the agenda within the context of regional and international mechanisms.




Cardinal Richelieu once defended the concept of national interest, or raison d’État (reason of the state) as “a mean between what conscience permits and affairs require.10” This makes national interests a form of reason that makes a state a knowing machine operating in the pursuit of rationally calculated objectives. But this would require defining what we mean by a state and the pursuit of its interest. Let’s consider Max Weber’s definition of state as a corporate body whose “administrative staff successfully upholds a claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order”11. As Weber clarifies, physical force is not the only means of political action or for ensuring order in a state, but it is a peculiar characteristic of a state that serves as the last resort when other means have proved futile, and allows a state to exercise a “binding authority, not only over the members of the state… but also to a large extent, over all action taking place in the area of its jurisdiction.” But the state should have legitimacy when it exercises that violence, otherwise it risks becoming an instrumentalized pursuit of political office through the means of violence.. As there is variety in the types of states in the world, it best to consider this issue from the perspective of “ideas of state” in the literature on power and authority, which offers three broad ideas.


The first is the “idea of state” that equates a state to a government, “which exercise claims to sovereign jurisdiction over particular territory and population”12. Institutions are tasked (and filled by those who speak on behalf of the state and represent the population within its borders) with array of functions, including the provision of services to the people, but most important of which is the control of national territory13. Here the state becomes both the provider of welfare and serves as a source of exploitation through taxation and distribution.14 The second attribute is the construction of “idea of state,” that seeks to provide justification over the legitimacy of state’s territory and government15. Such justification is important to a state in securing the legitimacy from its own population as well as engaging with other states. Securing such legitimacy from the people is achieved through a “sense of nationhood which binds members of the population together, and to the state to which they all belong”16. Critical to this notion is the right of the population to choose their leaders and the existence of social contract between the government and the people17.


The third is Northedge’s notion of state as “a territorial association of people recognized for purposes of law and diplomacy as a legally equal member of the system of state”18. The recognition of other states and their interactions matter greatly to a state even if it secures its territories and command the loyalty of its citizen population19. The modern states are supposed to satisfy all these three concepts, but in reality many do not, yet the concepts have become part of the mythology advanced by those representing states to legitimize their participation in the “ideology of the international order.”


Our state, during the rule Salva and Riek, attained sovereignty and initiated the process of healing. We should be mindful of the difficult conditions that South Sudan inherited and appreciate what has been accomplished. At the same time, we must acknowledge and learn from what went wrong. Our nation faces challenges, including the mobilization of clientele networks based on tribes and clans, which further divides our politics. The struggle for ascension to the state power and use of resources to sustain and build clientele networks is an unstable equilibrium. Given our political fragility, any instability not only compromises our national interests, but also threatens the wider regional interests and withers away the standing of our country among a community of equals.


Political thinkers such as Hobbes, Niebuhr, Augustine, Spinoza and Machiavelli argue that individuals are encouraged by self-preservation to establish a polity in order to escape the state of nature where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”20. There is a general agreement that the primary objective of the state is to provide security for those under its jurisdiction21. Salva and Riek tried their best to provide security in South Sudan, but many challenges impeded their efforts. And with the current crisis, our country is at the brink of anarchy. Averting this anarchy requires each of us to serve where he/she could be most effective in ensuring the prevalence of security in the country and the region.


In more elaborated sense, security is an element of justice, an idea that dates back to the Ancient Greeks. For Aristotle, justice is a life of active virtue, and since man is a social and a political animal, justice can only be exercised in interaction with other human beings in a state – a political and ethical community with shared values, guided by a constitution and the rule of law22. This Aristotelian view is shared by Augustine who sees inability of man to express himself as a source of “hunger, desire, and frustration” that makes him incapable of reason free from emotions, and whose yearnings can only be fulfilled through performance of civic duty, which serves as a remedy for sin, just as coercion regulates wickedness23.


Many political scholars agree that the interaction of man with his kind is shaped by conflict. It is from such conflict that a need arises for a centralized authority that can ensure prevalence of justice and allow man to live a more fulfilling life. Such a polity is established through a contract or consent of its members24. The consent of citizens is the foundation of law and government25. No one has a right to exercise executive authority on anyone else in the absence of a tacit consent in form of allegiance26. This allegiance comes from the ability of the state authority to ensure that the natural rights of man such as security, justice, property, etc. are protected. All people, irrespective of the availability of a government, enjoy these natural rights in the state of nature, and in agreeing a mutually binding contract among themselves to form a political society, they make it the role of the government to protect these natural rights27. To Locke, the formation of a government is therefore a second derivative of the existence of a political and civil society, and in the event that the government is unable to perform this function, the members of a political and civil society have the right to revolution and to reestablish a new government. Aquinas contends that the purpose of law and a government is to provide order and secure common good, which adheres to the promotion of natural rights of man; a human law that goes contrary to the natural law may be considered unjust28.


Many challenges faced South Sudan under the leadership of Gen. Salva and Dr. Riek and impeded the state to fulfill its full purpose. As the country is at the brink of anarchy, it is important that the peace we make is not a gimmick to only temporarily postpone the inevitable disaster. South Sudanese cannot afford to relive the experiences of the last several months or the practice of governance witnessed since CPA. The government has argued that Salva is a “legitimately elected” president, and has the legitimacy to govern. Although this statement has validity, Salva Kiir must also consider the implications of such a course of action and weigh potential risks. Legitimacy is a continuous process that is self-reinforcing in the delivery of the government on its contract with the citizens, and when the government becomes unable to deliver on its part of the contract, the citizens have the right to replace it with another.


I do not think that I need to convince either Gen. Salva or Dr. Riek of the validity of this argument. Salva Kiir, together with Dr. Riek and many of us, rebelled against a constitutional government of the Sudan to form the SPLM/A and wage a war to replace what we saw as an illegitimate government. I ask them to consider the opportunity they have to correct the budgetary and the institutional constraints and restructure the entire state. They have the chance to allow for the establishment of a government that would have the best chance in delivering on the natural rights of South Sudan’s citizens in a meaningful way and avoid risks to the entire horn of Africa.




Two vital national interests should serve as the foundation of our future policy: security, understood in the context of human security, and economic growth that is people-centered and aimed at improving the standard of living for the citizenry. These are the bedrock of state’s function that justifies the logic of state and authority from which other interests stem. The conditions of the past forced Gen. Salva and Dr. Riek to oversee a system of governance in which no one was held responsible for wrongdoing and in which elites maximized on a state of confusion. The necessities of the time period resulted in the  “politics of the belly29” and the instrumentalization of30 the state. Such a past should be avoided. We cannot afford to resign governance to the realm of personal and factional struggle for power that depends on ethnic and tribal clientele networks, and where entrepreneurship in violence serves as the means to secure a seat at the table. We have the chance to burry the kleptocracy31 of the past, where South Sudan became the nation with the second highest number of generals (after Russia and more than the United States), which drained state’s coffers32 of the resources to deliver on the core functions of the state.


All over the country, armed groups (tribal and political) roam, attack and kill citizens. They raid cattle, goats and sheep, abduct women and children and lay to waste villages and settlements. On the economic side, youth remain idle in the countryside and urban areas, as the public resources are channeled to sustaining patronage networks essential to our politicians in the factional feuds for power. The social indicators for South Sudan signifies disaster: half of the population lives in dire poverty of less than about $1 dollar per day33; unemployment remains widespread; the Global Acute Malnutrition estimates of World Food Programme are 11.6% for non-pregnant women of child bearing age and 12.6% for children34, and, the prevalence of child malnutrition (using weight for age statistics) is 47 percent; health conditions are near-primitive, manifested in high infant mortality rates that are among the highest in Africa – 131 of every 1000 children born die before their first birthday35.


These are social statistics of a country that has consistently received large oil rents since the signing of the CPA (at least $ 18 billion). Therefore, lack of resources is not an issue. In fact, GOSS per capita expenditure stood at $451 in the 2010-2011 budgets compared to the neighboring countries such as Kenya ($106) and Uganda ($60). The interim period was marked by pro-cyclicality in the expenditures of the government, as GOSS spent revenues received regardless of budgetary expectations. The problem was the clientele networks, whose political demands held sway over long-term macro-economic prudence. The shortsighted management of macroeconomic policy was constantly brought into the attention of our government, but the repeated calls to act responsibly were outweighed by the political considerations. Yet, with the return of peace, South Sudan has the chance to earn enormous oil revenues that if used properly could help in the reconstruction. However, if the size of the military remained at 300,000 or more, the size of civil service in the hundreds of thousands, the police, the prisons, and all others, we will not have enough resources to invest in actual development. This is why a grand deal is the only way to truly initiate a new era for South Sudan. Kiir and Riek can sign this agreement and monitor it for transitional period (3 years). This innovatively could offer a new path, distinctive and our own.





With the prudent management of the resources, we can ensure security in the country. This can complement the interest of the region – a region that has steadily improved its economic prospects despite challenges presented by risks associated with terrorism and fundamentalist Islam in the horn of Africa, war-lordism and entrepreneurship of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic, where simmering ethnic hostilities risk exploding to genocides. What the region needs the most is an environment of peace that would facilitate the construction of shared infrastructure to promote increasing trade between the countries and usher in an epoch of economic growth and renewal. In this context, the interests of South Sudan are consistent with the interest of region, since the primary needs (security and economic growth) are the key pillars on which such interests could be pursued. Salva Kiir and Riek Machar can directly contribute to the promotion of these interests if they approve a grand deal that would restructure the state, tasked another leader in the SPLM/A with implementation and monitor the progress of the agreement itself.




I hope it is now clear that President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek have a great opportunity to establish a great foundation for the country, despite our current tragedy. They have provided sound leadership in critical periods in the past, and they must exercise that same judgment today in the light of South Sudan’s political fragility. If the current hostilities end, not only would they be critical in the daunting task of national reconciliation that awaits us, but their supervision of the agreement would allow South Sudan to embark on building competent and credible institutions that can return the country to the path of development and democracy36. Their role in this process would be essential and would allow South Sudan to restore legitimacy and its focus of development.


South Sudan needs to avoid a political system “characterized by highly volatile and individualistic forms and personnel structures37” at the uppermost levels. The exit of Gen. Kiir and Dr. Riek to a monitoring role would allow the SPLM/A to critically look among the mid-level cadres of potential for a leader with intellect, sound judgment, vision and charismatic ability who would implement the agreement with rigor and determination. We do have such leaders in abundance and a time has come to give one of them the chance to deliver for our country. This would allow South Sudan to build institutional checks instead of a system managed through the principle of fear that removes the sense of security from the citizen. Our country needs the separation of political powers and imposition of institutional limitation on authority to underscore the importance of institutions instead of individuals in sustaining the existence of our state and the fulfillment of its functions38. I hope my two comrades will give this a consideration, as their leadership at this critical hour is critical to the future of our nascent country39.


Karl Marx once said, “Men make history, but not in the circumstances of their choosing.” I hope Comrades Salva and Riek see their unique privilege in that they have the chance to make history while circumstances are still within their control. I hope we reach for the glory that awaits us. I am hopeful that Gen. Kiir and Dr. Riek will enjoy the old age of freedom fighter comforted by the memories of honorable acts, with legacies secured and undergirded in the very content of our institutions.


I appeal to a willing citizen to join in persuading the two leaders to rise and glorify our beloved “land of greater abundance” and the “martyrs, whose blood cemented our national foundation.”



Peter Biar Ajak is the Founder and Director of the Centre for Strategic Analyses and Research (C-SAR).



1. See for example the IGAD-led peace process in South Sudan and between South Sudan and the Sudan.

2. Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Concept Note of the Conference, “National Security Interests and the Regional Response to Security Crises in the Greater Horn of Africa.” Held May 14-16 in Addis Ethiopia.

3. See Alighieri, Dante, The Divine Comedy

4. See Dr. John Garang Speech delivered on the signing of the CPA

5. See the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005

6. Prior to the oil-shutdown in January 2012, South Sudan was dependent on oil for 98% of its revenues and

100% of foreign exchanges; oil also accounted for nearly 70%of the GDP. See:

Ajak, P. B. (2012). “Macroeconomic Impact of the Oil Shutdown.” Centre for Strategic    Analyses and Research. Juba, South Sudan.

Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning (2011),Government of South Sudan Budget 2011. Juba, South Sudan.

7. South Sudan has 64 tribes (ethnic groups).

8. The internal Comprehensive Evaluation of GOSS found over 60 percent of civil servants holding positions who which they were unqualified.

9. See Ajak, Peter Biar, “South Sudan Unfinished Business,” The New York Times

10. Byrd, Peter (1996). “The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics”. Oxford University Press

11. Weber 1964: 154

12. See Clapham 1996: 9.

13. See Clapham 1996; Lasswell 1965; Gellner 1988; Bobbitt 2002

14. See Levi 1988, Mann 1986, 1988, Brewer 1989.

15. Clapham 1996; Halliday 1994; Cerny 2005; Chang 2003

16. See Clapham 1996: 10

17. Spruyt 1994; Van Crevel 1999; Dal BÛ and Dal BÛ 2011; Cairnero 1978; Gellner 1983

18. See Halliday 1994

19. Clapham 1996: Jackson 1990; Herbst 2000

20. Clapham 1996: Jackson 1990; Herbst 2000

21. Hobbes 1651; Montesquieu 1734, 1748; Weber 1964

22. Barker 1995

23. Augustine/Bettensen 1972

24. Hobbes 1651; Locke 1689

25. Marsiglio 1956

26. Locke 1689

27. Locke 1689

28. Locke 1689

29. Bayart 1993

30. See Chabal and Daloz, Africa Works: Politics of Disorder

31. Andreski 1969

32. See De Waal, Alex, “When Kleptocracy Goes Insolvent: Origins of the Civil War in South Sudan

33. World Bank, A Poverty Profile for the Southern States of Sudan, March 2011

34. (June, 2011)

35. IMF, “South Sudan Faces Hurdles as World’s Newest Country” IMF Survey Magazine, July 18, 2011.

36. See Ajak, Peter Biar, “Reconciliation in South Sudan: Three Likely Scenarios,” The Brookings Institutions

37. Nissen, A. and K. Schlichte (2006):  From Guerilla War to Party Politics: The Transformation of Non-State Armed Groups in El Salvador and Nicaragua, Geneva: Oslo Forum06, accessible at

38. Montesquieu 1748; Wong 1997; Tilly 1975

39. Deng, Lual, “It’s The Leadership Stupid: The Challenges of Post-conflict Economic Governance”



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