Georgetown Author to Discuss his Latest Book on Sudan and the Nile at a Public Book Launch

Oct 5, 2015

On Monday, October 5, 2015 at 6:00pm, Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) will be hosting an on-campus and open-to-the-public book launch for a new publication written by professor Dr. Harry Verhoeven titled “Water, Civilisation and Power in Sudan: The Political Economy of Military-Islamist State Building”. It tells the story of one of the most ambitious state-building projects in the modern era.

 Through an extraordinary and unprecedented set of interviews with leading Islamists, business tycoons and security officials, Verhoeven examines a quarter of a century of Sudan’s history through the perspectives of the key figures who shaped this region following the Islamic “Al-Ingaz” Revolution. Water and agricultural policy have been central to the state-building project of these military-Islamist revolutionaries: this book shows how the gamble to use water and agriculture as a tool to consolidate power is linked to twenty-first-century globalization, Islamist ideology, and intensifying geopolitics of the Nile. Going beyond the conventional ideas of famine, “water wars” or the notions of the resource curse, he emphasizes a different set of connections between Sudan's environmental factors, development and political power.

“Despite the fact that people have been talking about the Nile basin region of Africa - which includes Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia - and how politics link to water in this part of the world, the truth is that most of these descriptions are vague and don’t delve into the internal economic and political networks that shaped the behavior of individual countries,” said the author. “So this book dissects how power actually works in the Nile Basin and why water is at the heart of it."

While Sudan's revolutionary regime was built on a vision of authoritarian and Islamic modernization, a critical analysis reveals that “the people who have been in power for the past 25 years have made the exact same mistakes of all governing elites, regardless of their political or ideological affiliation,” said Verhoeven. Ultimately, he concludes that promises of development have turned out to be mirages in the desert. “If people want to create a different future for the people of Sudan, there needs to be a fundamental change in the way water is used as a political instrument that favor elites at the expense of others,” he said.

He hopes that this book, which is available in hardback from Cambridge University Press, can help to inform future decisions of policymakers to change what he concludes has been a disastrous paradigm for development in the region for the past 200 years, as well as serving as a reference for regional specialists in both political science and resources and development.

Commenting on the importance of this research, the world-famous Professor Christopher Clapham from the Centre of African Studies at the University of Cambridge said: "The Nile waters are central to the politics of north-east Africa, and Sudan is central to the hydropolitics of the Nile. Harry Verhoeven’s superb study reaches deep into the complex issues of water, religion, and political power that have shaped the Islamist regime in Khartoum and reveals both its ambitions and its looming failure."

Professor Harry Verhoeven teaches at GU-Q, and is also an Associate Member of the Department of Politics and International Relations of the University of Oxford. His research focuses on elite politics, conflict and the political economy of the environment in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region. 

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