Abstract: This thesis explores the political dimensions of development-induced displacement and resettlement (DIDR) in the context of oil extraction in Sudan. It provides a detailed perspective on the experience of displacement of the local people in the oil-rich areas of Southern Sudan. It also offers an important insight into the local politics of this much-publicized dimension of Sudan’s political crises.
The analytical frameworks common to the field of DIDR, mostly developed through studies of the impact of dams, mainly deal with economic and social aspects of displacement. These frameworks are inadequate for explaining oil-induced displacement, because they largely ignore the political contexts of DIDR: the focus of this thesis. Sudan’s oil project is carried out in the name of the “national interest.” But in reality, it serves the interests of the main beneficiaries: Sudan’s Northern “Arab” and Muslim elites and their supporters. Many Southern Sudanese have had to resort to arms, partly to protect their interests in oil development, and in order to contest the purported “national interest” championed by the government.
This thesis problematizes the idea of a “national interest” in Sudan in order to question who benefits from development projects that cause human displacement. It argues that conflicts of interests between central government elites and local peoples best explain why displacement connected to natural resource development occurs in weak states, such as Sudan. As a result, ethnic, religious, linguistic, regional and other identities are often exploited by elites in such states in an “instrumentalist” way so as to gain, or retain, power and access to resources. This is, at the expense of local people adversely affected by development projects.