Save South Sudan, or Lose Africa
South Sudan is the newest country in the world, and unfortunately it seems to be on the edge of the newest civil war in the region. For the past week, clashes and killings have ravaged the capital and other areas of that young African country, yet all that comes from Washington is a heavy silence.
Some observers believe that the U.S. is staying silent on purpose, and will allow the confrontation to spread until the country no longer is able to govern itself, ultimately leading the northern Jihadi regime to recapture influence over the south. While there is no hard evidence to directly blame the Obama Administration for this looming new disaster, we certainly can see that the protracted U.S. absence from the scene as indirect proof that pressure groups within the Beltway might want to see South Sudan go down in flames. But is the drama only due to U.S. policies, or are there also local disastrous politics to indict? A full review is warranted to see clearer through the fog of war.
The African people of southern Sudan, trapped against their will by a series of violent regimes in the north, struggled for sixty years to win their freedom, resulting in the massacre of two million (mostly) civilians, the enslavement of half a million, and four generations of men and women devastated by an atrocious war. From 1983 on, and increasingly since 1989, a northern Islamist regime unleashed ethnic cleansing and extreme horrors on the populations of the South, devastating villages and towns.
Omar Bashir’s forces, indoctrinated by the Islamists, committed genocide in the South before they later turned to Darfur. But the African resistance led by John Garang, commander of the Sudan Popular Liberation Movement, stood firmly, even as the movement lost most of its ground to the Jihadist army. Eventually, and thanks to support from American churches, Western lawmakers, and NGOs, the Bush Administration helped the oppressed nation obtain its right for self-determination, which culminated in the creation of a new state in in January 2011.
In my book The Coming Revolution of 2010, I projected a victory to the south Sudanese who would then face the challenge of building a new republic. Indeed, after a referendum handsomely legitimized their claim to liberty, the Africans of South Sudan obtained their independence and separated from the oppressive northern regime, which was later accused by the International Criminal Court of genocide in Darfur.
The Republic of South Sudan joined the international community and was endowed with hopes and oil resources to bridge the gap of poverty created by Khartoum over decades. International companies and foreign countries rushed to invest and help the new country rise. But the old “colonial power” in the north did not let go of the formerly enslaved people. Omar Bashir maintained his military pressure on border areas, including Abei province, to preempt similar African revolts among Nubians, Beja, and Darfuris in the north.
On al Jazeera, Jihadi ideologues often menaced the south with retaliation for separating “from the Umma’s land,” and many programs “predicted” an internecine war inside the south. These “predictions” finally materialized when followers of the Vice President Riek Machar and the troops of the President Silva Kiir clashed over a so-called “coup attempt” this month. Sources in the region said, though tensions over power struggles between Dinka and Nuer tribal elites have been simmering for months,outside parties, with the blessings of Khartoum, worked on encouraging these fights as a way to trigger a civil war that would end in the economic and political collapse of the landlocked country. The sources added that the Islamist regime of Bashir made the same promise to both sides in the south – to open northern Sudan’s pipelines to the seaports, the only access for exporting oil, if one camp defeated the other – hence pushing the two influential parties in Juba to clash.
While it looks like the international Islamist networks drove South Sudan over the cliff, the leaders of the young African countries are to be lamed as well. Both Silva Kir and Riek Mashar were longtime deputies to the historic leader of the southern struggle, Colonel John Garang, who was killed in an accident that many believe was an assassination by the north. President Kiir and Vice President Mashar were supposed to lead South Sudan to democracy and prosperity, but post-independence experiences, particularly in Africa, present the danger of power struggles.
However, Kiir and Mashar and their friends in the West could have and should have avoided this bloodbath over power. Some indicate that Mashar has in the past sided with the Bashir regime against Garang before reuniting with the southern resistance. We will leave that argument to the southern Sudanese themselves to resolve, democratically, at the ballot boxes. For now, we need to do all we can to stop the violence, restore legal order, and protect human rights.
The Obama Administration has shyly stated that these are regrettable incidents and sent a few dozen Marines to protect the U.S. embassy, as well as dispatched an envoy. This is not foreign policy at the level of the challenge. President Obama should say more and do more to save this African country born under his watch, as a leader of the free world and first black president of the United States.
President Obama should phone leaders of southern Sudan and ask them publicly and sharply to stop the violence immediately and initiate an immediate reconciliation process, with all measures needed to stabilize south Sudan. To allow the situation to decay to a point of no return is to indirectly be part of its demise.
Sources in Washington claim that the Muslim Brotherhood lobby, backed by petrodollar interests groups, is behind Washington’s hands-off policy towards Juba. According to these sources, South Sudan is the most experienced resistance movement against the Jihadists on the continent, and since the fall of the Morsi regime in Cairo, the Brotherhood lobby wants to reinstall itself in Khartoum to counterattack the new Egypt with further destabilization. Are these anaysts going too far in their analysis? Facts on the ground seem to validate such a theory, particularly the irresponsible inaction of Washington vis-à-vis South Sudan’s tragic events. The U.S. Congress must hold the Administration accountable for the potential fall of the newest and freest African nation, now submitted to the horror of Brotherly killings.
Dr. Walid Phares advises members of the U.S. Congress on the Middle East, and is the author of The Coming Revolution (2010). He is writing a new book on the future of the Arab Spring to be published in 2014.