The United Nations has recently reported that South Sudan is suffering from record-breaking levels of hunger, despite the fact that it is harvest time for many staple crops in the region. And this is in a country that has traditionally been stricken by hunger and poverty. Having gained independence from Sudan only 5 years ago, this is already a troubled region of the world. The civil war in which South Sudan gained its independence left millions of people displaced. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between hunger and poverty in situations like that of South Sudan, and to argue for the thesis that until countries like South Sudan are relieved of the extreme poverty that leads to widespread hunger, it is unlikely that the unfortunate armed conflicts that now plague the country will end. The hypothesis of the paper is that if the underlying problem of poverty and famine were addressed, the problem of violence and armed conflict would take care of itself.
This is not a departure from the theme of ‘conflict and peacemaking’ in South Sudan. For the thesis of the paper, to repeat, is precisely that peacemaking will never be successful until the people of the country are relieved of poverty and hunger. A consequence of this is that the reaction of much of the rest of the world—in particular the United States—to crises like that current one in South Sudan is irrational. War and violence are condemned, and steps are sometimes taken to end them. But so long as a country is desperately poor, the steps that are taken treat only the symptoms, and not the disease. If the world is serious about ending violence and war, then it must become serious about ending hunger.

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The theoretical framework of the paper will be a standard academic one, in which all sources—especially including primary sources, insofar as they can be obtained—that are relevant to the question are consulted, with the goal of obtaining the most comprehensive and accurate view of the events in question possible. Both academic articles and books, and articles that appear in reputable newspapers, will be utilized. Where accounts are found to differ among themselves, the most objective way of reconciling them will be sought. It will, however, be necessary to limit the scope of the inquiry into relations between hunger and the sort of civil unrest that can lead to war, or at least civil war. This limit will be maintained by focusing only on studies—or historical episodes—that directly link hunger and widespread violence or war.

It is obvious that the argument I will henceforth provide will yield a strong prima facie case for the thesis that it argues for. Modulo adventitious and contingent concerns, this should suffice to satisfy the requirements of the assignment.

An initial review of the literature that will be consulted for the paper reveals several promising articles and books that can be consulted. There are several good, historically sensitive studies that provide an overview of the problems in South Sudan (e.g. Hutchinson 2001; Jok 2015). There are also studies that discuss historical and statistical links between poverty and the sort of civil unrest that often leads to violence or even war (Fjelde 2015; Bangura 2015). Finally, there are some academic works that discuss what little the United States has done to help Africa, from its support of Apartheid in South Africa to its indifference to the genocide in Darfur (Gibson et. al. 2015; Smith 2004).

Because this is a research paper, rather than a quantitative study, there is no literal sense in which the concepts to be employed with be operationalized. Use will be made, however, of the conflict mapping guide that has been made available to the class. An attempt will be made in the heart of the paper to mirror the structure of the conflict mapping guide. Thus it will include: (A) Background issues, including both a map and a description of the relevant portion of South Sudan, as well as an outline of the history of the relevant conflicts. (B) A description of the conflicting parties as well as treatment of the central issues lying behind the conflict. In this case, of course, the key conflict is not between two groups of people—but between a group of people and famine. Whether further issues became important as the study progresses is an issue that will definitely have to be discussed. In addition to the conflict issues, analysis of the conflicting parties will be made. (C) The context of the conflict will be discussed, at the three relevant levels: the state level, the regional level, and the global level. Special attention will be paid to parties that might have intervened, but did not, such as the United States. The sad fact is that the United States alone spends more each year on pointless and illegal wars and occupations than would be required to end world hunger. This is, again, a good example of treating a symptom of the problem rather than the problem itself.

The outline of the paper will be as follows. The paper will begin with a brief introduction to the issue, immediately followed by a statement of the paper’s thesis. An attempt will be made to ensure that the thesis is specific enough to be manageable in a relatively short paper, but not so specific as to lack wider relevance and direct implications concerning related matters. The core of the paper will be the conflict structure described above, with the qualification that the conflict in question is again not that between two groups of people. It will contain three sections, each devoted to (A) – (C). This analysis will be used to argue for the central thesis of the paper. The next section of the paper will describe some proposed solutions in some detail, explaining why the energy that the world spends opposing armed conflicts would be better spent on treating the root cause of many of these conflicts. Then there will be a conclusion in which the limitations of the study are acknowledged, and it is summarized and emphasized exactly what the paper claims to have shown, and what it does not claim to have shown. The structure of the outline is included on the following page.

The aim of the paper is therefore limited but not trivial: It is to support the view that systematic violence like that which currently plagues South Sudan will never end so long as the people of the country are unable to feed themselves and their children. The thesis is not reductive. I am not claiming or arguing that this is the only cause of the violence. I am not even arguing (though I think it may be true) that poverty and hunger is the most important cause of the unrest. What the paper will argue is that these are neglected causes, and that so long as they continue to be neglected the problems are not going to be solved.

  • Bangura, Yusuf. “Combating poverty in Africa: 2015 and beyond.” The millennium development goals and beyond: Global development after (2015): 192-208.
  • Fjelde, Hanne. “Farming or fighting? Agricultural price shocks and civil war in Africa.” World Development 67 (2015): 525-534.
  • Gibson, Clark C., Barak D. Hoffman, and Ryan S. Jablonski. “Did aid promote democracy in Africa? The role of technical assistance in Africa’s transitions.” World Development 68 (2015): 323-335.
  • Hutchinson, Sharon E. “A curse from God? Religious and political dimensions of the post-1991 rise of ethnic violence in South Sudan.” The Journal of Modern African Studies 39.02 (2001): 307-331.
  • Jok, Jok Madut. “The Evil of Insecurity in South Sudan.” Evil in Africa: Encounters with the Everyday (2015): 61.
  • Smith, Gayle. “US Aid to Africa.” Review of African Political Economy 31.102 (2004): 698-703.