John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


The Dependent South Sudan

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
June 17, 2014

A South Sudanese girl displaced by the conflict carries a younger boy on her back as they walk through mud in a flooded camp for internally displaced people at the UNMISS base in Malakal, Upper Nile State, May 30, 2014. (Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)


This is a guest post by Allen Grane, former intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. Allen is currently an officer in the Army National Guard. His interests are in Africa, conflict, and conflict resolution.

The situation in South Sudan has failed to improve despite a second peace agreement signed on May 9. As the conflict between the government and rebel forces continues, the country is also facing a collapsing economy, a massive increase in internally displaced persons and refugees, possible famine, and a cholera outbreak. So far the South Sudanese government has proven incapable of dealing with any of these issues on its own.

The country’s economy has fallen drastically in recent months. This is due in large part to its reliance on oil, which accounts for nearly 98 percent of South Sudan’s revenue. Since the start of the conflict South Sudan’s oil output has dropped by a third from nearly 250,000 to 160,000 barrels of crude oil a day. In order to bolster the economy the government has looked to foreign investors and has taken over $200 million in loans from oil companies.

As the conflict rages in South Sudan the United Nations and neighboring countries have been burdened with the responsibility of helping the South Sudanese people. The UN now plans to build new camps for displaced civilians in Juba, Bor, Malakal, and Bentiu states. Over 133,000 refugees from the conflict have flooded camps in western Ethiopia. In Norway, on May 20, international donors committed over $600 million to help prevent famine in South Sudan. The UN, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization have also been working to help prevent the spread of the recent cholera outbreak.

Now, due to human rights violations of the conflict, such as the recruitment of over nine thousand child soldiers by both sides, the UN Security Council voted to change the UN mission in South Sudan from one of nation building to civilian protection. To this end, the UN Security Council also approved the deployment of three battalions of peacekeepers from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda. Even China has commited to sending a battalion of peacekeepers in order to help protect the people of the world’s newest nation (along with its oil assets).

The South Sudanese government is failing in its responsibilities to its citizens. In fact, it seems that it is counting on international institutions, outside governments, and even businesses to provide for the well being of its people. However, despite all of the outside help, none of these pending crises will be resolved if the conflict continues. As of June 11, leaders on both sides, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, agreed to establish a transitional government in order to bring peace to South Sudan. The nation’s future success or failure depends upon whether they are able to commit to this new government and control their respective military forces.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Jim VanOpdorp

    I’m mainly familiar with the East African Community, a 5-nation institution that turned away South Sudan’s request to linkup after it became an independent state.

    While the EAC has many deep-rooted problems; for instance, more than 30% of the population is stunted (and > 40% in Burundi) — there’s the crippling effect of large swaths of their population never to achieve full physical and cognitive development; and when 5 or 6 years of very substandard primary education is the norm, you have countries that are stuck at the starting gate. The EAC, for all its problems, is at least a generation, and probably two, ahead of any promising developments.

    It is not the government failing in its responsibilities — that’s an old tune I’ve heard too often; instead, it is the NGOs and supranational organizations that have clung to roughly 90% of the trillions sent down the pipeline to (supposedly) alleviate hunger, disease, and other calamities. When one examines their operations closely, they consistently list between 20 and 30% of program expenditures as so-called ‘capacity building,’ but look again more closely and one will find that roughly two-thirds of that is paid out to Western experts, to academia for ‘studies.’ and to their overhead and operating expenses. Justification for this shakedown, as always, is that host country principals aren’t accountable or transparent. How ironic when this game is capped off with non-arm’s length social audits (rather than a close look and see) and when it’s an unspoken tradition that all the world’s problems; especially with regard to their key marketing client, Sub Saharan Africa, can only be discussed at 5-star venues. See 2012 when the two big get- together’s were at Rio (the Rio+20 earth summit) and later that same year at over-the-top Doha. To eliminate poverty and all other ills that stem from it, one needs 1) Safety & security 2) Full physical and cognitive development from birth through adulthood, and 3) A decent 8 years of schooling.

    When half the 10% that makes its way through channels to targeted countries is diverted, how is that 5% a bigger problem than the other 90%?

  • Posted by Hank Cohen

    South Sudan: Time to Think Outside the Box Toward International Trusteeshi

    Only three years old, the independent nation of South Sudan is in the midst of a catastrophic humanitarian disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people have become internal refugees. Thousands of others have perished in ethnic cleansing attacks against innocent men, women and children living their normal lives in their villages. There are new reports of several thousand-child soldiers who may be fighting in the ranks of ethnic militias.

    The international community, especially the United States, is taking the problem very seriously. Peace talks between the South Sudanese Government, and the main rebel group led by former Vice President Riak Machar, have been going on in Ethiopia for several months under the auspices of the African Union. US diplomats have been doing a full court press trying to bring about a cease-fire and reconciliation. Secretary Kerry has personally gone to the Ethiopian capital Addis Abeba to persuade the warring parties to reach at least a temporary agreement. Despite several cease-fire agreements over the past few months, nothing has changed on the ground in South Sudan, and innocent civilians continue to die in vain.

    The major problem with the approach of the romantics trying to manage the South Sudan crisis in the US National Security Council is that they look at that unhappy country as a normal nation undergoing a civil conflict. They are in full conflict resolution mode. Unfortunately, their view of South Sudan is governed by the memory of a thirty-year guerrilla war between the Arab government in the northern two-thirds of Sudan, and the impoverished Christian Africans living in the south. The United States under Bush (43) worked very hard to bring about a peace agreement in 2005 that guaranteed self-determination. The people of South Sudan had a referendum in 2011 and chose to separate themselves from northern Sudan.

    The United States Government looked at the independence of South Sudan in 2011 as the fulfillment of a long quest to free the Christian South from the dominant and repressive northern Arab government. Unfortunately, in their joy at the long awaited freedom for the South Sudanese people, the United States Government and many American supporters, overlooked the fact that South Sudan was the least prepared for independence than any other former colonized nation in Africa.

    In fact, South Sudan was born a failed state. The Sudanese Government under Arab domination between 1954 and 2005 had done nothing for South Sudan during fifty years of independence from the British. They put in no infrastructure, no health system, and no educational system. Anything useful was the work of the Christian churches and NGOs. South Sudan had no institutions to speak of.

    The people who took over power after self-government was achieved in 2005, and independence in 2011, were the guerrilla leaders of the South Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM). Instead of devoting their energies, and considerable oil revenues, to reconstruction and nation building, these warlords settled down in the capital city of Juba and proceeded to loot the treasury. They lived in $500 a night hotels in the capital and wore $1,000 Saville Row suits, but did nothing to start helping the people of South Sudan begin to escape poverty. They traveled around the world to thank everyone for helping them achieve independence from an oppressive regime. They were treated as heroes. But at home, they did nothing for the mostly illiterate people of South Sudan.

    Needless to say, with so much oil revenue at stake, it took only three years for the leading war lord thieves to have a falling out, with the fault lines following ethnic patterns. The two biggest ethnic groups, among the hundreds living in South Sudan, are the Nuer and the Dinka. The President of the country is Salva Kir, a Dinka. The rebel Vice President, Riak Machar, is a Nuer. These are the “liberation leaders” who are now in charge of ethnic massacres.

    It is time for the conflict resolution managers in the National Security Council to put aside their romanticism about the brave Southern Sudanese people, and start to think realistically. South Sudan cannot govern itself without intensive externally imposed direction. Even the Belgian Congo in 1960 had more preparation for independence, and that new nation has still not recovered from its original instabilities a half-century later.

    South Sudan needs to be placed under intensive UN tutelage until it is capable of true self-government. There is precedent for this. Namibia, in 1988, needed a period of UN tutelage after breaking away from South Africa with invaluable American diplomatic assistance. And Cambodia, after the fall of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, needed UN supervision for several years starting in 1999.

    The search for peace and security in South Sudan is doomed to failure if anyone believes the present ruling warlords have the will or capability to begin building a nation from its present status of zero.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required