Currently viewing the tag: "South Sudan"

Back in 2002, Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, drafted a foreign policy and national security white paper for his country. Before finalizing it, he confided to me a “nightmare scenario” — not included in the published version — that could upend the balance of power in the Horn of Africa region.

The scenario went like this: Sudan is partitioned into a volatile south and an embittered north. The south becomes a sinkhole of instability, while the north is drawn into the Arab orbit. Meanwhile, Egypt awakens from its decades-long torpor on African issues and resumes its historical stance of attempting to undermine Ethiopia, with which it has a long-standing dispute over control of the Nile River. It does so by trying to bring Eritrea and Somalia into its sphere of influence, thereby isolating the government in Addis Ababa from its direct neighbors. Finally, Saudi Arabia begins directing its vast financial resources to support Ethiopia’s rivals and sponsor Wahhabi groups that challenge the traditionally dominant Sufis in the region, generating conflict and breeding militancy within the Muslim communities.

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Winning the peace in the Horn of Africa — and its neighbors across the huge arc of turbulence from the Maghreb to Central Asia — means studying the warlord’s playbook, updated for the 21st century. Countries beset by factionalism, corruption and violence can’t be fixed with the 20th century tool kit of peace talks leading to new constitutions, plus using aid to build institutions, backed by U.N. peacekeepers. Worse, the U.S. strategy of outsourcing counter-terrorism programs to regional proxies just funnels ready cash into precisely the most skilled and ruthless operators in the political marketplace, as well as giving them the means for repression.

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South Sudanese are deeply respectful of the dead, and are always determined to ensure that their loved ones are buried with proper ceremony, and their spirits are propitiated. The site of a massacre is not just a human rights violation, but a spiritual disaster.

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Seven journalists have been killed in South Sudan in 2015. Independent newspapers are closed down. Humanitarian agencies feed millions of South Sudanese people – even after peace is signed. Government spending on health and education remains near zero.

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The UN Security Council threatens sanctions on South Sudan’s leaders if they don’t sign a deal before the end of August 2015. The mediators draw up a ‘compromise peace agreement’ and both leaders sign, reluctantly. The agreement is a share-out of top jobs. The people must wait for democracy, justice, disarmament and development.

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The mediators remain stuck in a model of peacemaking that includes only the leaders of the warring parties. Between December 2013 and August 2015, there are eight summit meetings, usually in Addis Ababa, and near-continuous peace talks. But the mediators never once go to meet the South Sudanese people. Civil society’s views aren’t taken seriously.

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