Confronting civil war : a comparative study of household livelihood strategies in Southern Sudan
Civil wars have become endemic to many African countries since the end of the Cold War.
The risk of civil wars in much of Africa stands now as the leading contributory cause of
vulnerability. This upsurge of civil wars has . posed a compelling need to improve
understanding for better policy direction. Most of the current studies on civil wars tend to
focus on macro issues with limited relevance and conceptualisation at micro level. The
dearth of understanding of household livelihood strategies in the 'war zone' has made the
existing studies in risk and livelihood literature unwittingly equating these strategies with
those in the context of other risk events, or even ruled out any rational household risk
management behaviour. In this regard, this study is an attempt to gain a nuanced
understanding of the subde household livelihood strategies in the context of civil war.
In an attempt to unravel and better understand household risk-related behaviours in the
context of civil war, this thesis set out a framework called the Risk-Livelihood Approach that
links risk events in a systematic way to household livelihood strategies and their outcomes.
The framework provides the basis for fonnulating the main four hypotheses of the thesis,
which are related to characteristics of risk events, livelihood strategies and diversification,
social capital and vulnerability. In an attempt to provide a better understanding of these
hypotheses, comparative empirical inquiries were undertaken at household level in Bahr el
Ghazal region in southern Sudan, which has been exposed to a protracted civil war. The
major empirical findings from a general case study of Sudan's civil war and three specific
case studies of households exposed to different types of counter-insurgency warfare and
drought all point to complexity and context-specificity.
The thesis clearly shows the significance of specific characteristics of counter-insurgency
warfare in understanding household livelihood strategies and vulnerability. In particular, the
thesis demonstrates that the 'standard' pattern of vulnerability and household responses to
drought is similar to that in the context of exogenous counter-insurgency warfare, while a
different pattern of vulnerability and household responses to endogenous shocks, such as
endogenous counter-insurgency warfare, is identified. Specifically, the thesis surprisingly
finds a positive link between level of vulnerability and initial high level of household wealth
in the context of endogenous counter-insurgency warfare. A future research agenda in the
area of vulnerability might need to focus on developing a greater understanding of the nature
and characteristics of risk events such as endogenous shocks