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Thriving on chaos: the war in Darfur and the transformation of the authoritarian coalition

Anne-Laure Mahé
p. 137-154


Authoritarian regimes are often considered to be prone to civil wars because they are fundamentally based on principles of marginalization and coercion. Recent literature on authoritarian resiliency tends nonetheless to consider that regimes that are plagued with violence cannot endure over the long term. Building on an analysis of Omar al-Bashir’s regime in Sudan, this paper explores the relationship between civil wars and the winning coalition, the group of people whose loyalty is necessary for the survival of the regime. It studies the way in which the war in Darfur has been fought, and demonstrates how this has led to changes within the coalition that may contribute to the entrenchment of authoritarianism in Sudan.

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Consulter cet article


Investigating the factors of authoritarian resiliency: war and the winning coalition
War in the study of authoritarianism
The winning coalition
Fighting the war in Darfur
The root causes of the conflict: the convergence of micro and macro struggles
The Janjaweed as the cornerstone of the government’s strategy
The Janjaweed and the security apparatus
A counterbalancing strategy
From expandable allies to last bulwark of the regime
Concluding remarks: ambiguous allies

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In May 2008, for the first time in the history of Sudan, a rebel movement reached the gates of the capital city. Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) had brought the war from the periphery to the economic and political centre of the country. The assault was pushed back, but it was nonetheless a sign that a regime that had long seemed unshakeable might actually be weaker than had previously been thought.

The current regime was established in June 1989, following a coup d’état orchestrated by the National Islamic Front (NIF) and carried out by a faction of army officers, among whom was Omar al-Bashir. It was only after a few weeks, however, that Sudanese and foreign observers alike understood the major role played by the Islamists, who were led by Hassan al-Turabi. The newly-established regime did not shy away from using violence. People were forced out of their jobs, demonstrations at the University of Khartoum were repressed, and most importantly, the secret services were re...

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Anne-Laure Mahé, « Thriving on chaos: the war in Darfur and the transformation of the authoritarian coalition », Égypte/Monde arabe,Troisième série, 14 | 2016, mis en ligne le 21 octobre 2018, consulté le 21 janvier 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/ema.3590

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Anne-Laure Mahé

Anne-Laure Mahé is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the Université de Montréal. She has an MA in Political Science from Sciences Po Bordeaux, France. In her dissertation, she aims to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of authoritarian resiliency in Sudan, focusing on Omar al-Bashir’s regime (1989-today). In order to highlight the processes and mechanisms that fuel the regime’s longevity, she observes the interactions between the centre and one of its peripheries, the federated state of North Kordofan, in the context of a specific development policy. She demonstrates how the implementation of a participatory approach by local authorities opens spaces for both the production and the subversion of power relationships that link the citizens of North Kordofan, the state authorities and the central regime.

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