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Kenya has betrayed South Sudanese

By Alexander Chagema | December 8th 2016


Military violence against civilians, one of the main triggers of the 1983 to 1985 Ethiopian famine in which more than 400,000 lives were lost, is being replicated in South Sudan.

Africa’s youngest nation is dying. It is on the verge of becoming another African basket case. South Sudan is not producing crude oil, an abundance of which it has. The rude disruption of an orderly social life impacts negatively on agricultural production and small-scale businesses that have become the least of concerns as people run for safety away from their homes.

Schooling barely takes place because survival is dependent on constantly being on the move, evading marauding soldiers. Whether from Salva Kiir’s side or Riek Machar’s makes no difference; they all indiscriminately fire bullets and hurl grenades.

South Sudan has not known peace since seceding from Sudan in 2011. More than 2 million civilians have been displaced to date. Not less than 10000 deaths have been catalogued. Another 5 million people are dependent on food and humanitarian assistance from UN agencies.

Nothing typifies the Dark Continent more than this. Everywhere one looks there is ethnically instigated strife, famine, diseases, low educational standards, extra judicial killings, political persecution, insecurity and corruption. The devil must truly feel at home in Africa.

While the suffering in Ethiopia had been kept under wraps (no social media at the time), it took the personal initiative of Kenyan photo journalist Mohammed Amin to bring it to the attention of the world.

The horror photos appealed to humanity. Bob Geldof sang about it in his song “we are the world” and galvanized nations into action. In the same vein, something needs to be done about South Sudan.

Diplomacy is not working, and it’s getting worse. It breaks even the hardest of hearts seeing fellow human beings crawling on all fours; men and women who should be up and about fending for their families, reduced to bones held together only by the thickness of their skins. A photo of a little boy not more than two years old crying and tugging at the arm of his mother’s lifeless body should raise anger in us.

The suffering in South Sudan is not a consequence of natural attrition. It is the product of the struggle for glorification between two heartless monsters;Salva Kiir and Reik Machar. If the duo were capable of compassion, if real blood courses through their veins, if they get attacks of conscience like normal beings do, they would have paused, reflected and realised the gravity of their tomfoolery. A man that must gain ascendancy over another by stepping over the corpses of people he helped kill belongs in a steel cage.

From whatever perspective one looks at it, Kenya is a regional powerhouse. It is however aggrieving that Kenya, having projected itself as the champion of peace in the region, is applying double standards.

We cannot have a situation where Kenya leads mediation efforts in South Sudan while at the same time giving haven to the main antagonists. While the poor in South Sudan lead the lives of mongrels, devastated by a war they don’t comprehend, a report by watchdog group, The Sentry, revealed that the families of Machar and Kiir live in opulence in an upmarket estate in Nairobi.

The import of this is that Kenya is not committed to finding peace. It also implies that as long as the suffering in South Sudan does not directly and negatively affect Machar and Kiir, they will not appreciate the need for peace. Innocent civilians are killed by illiterate soldiers for no reason other than being nearby and therefore good for target practice.

The African Union, which Kenya seeks to chair as the AU Commission elects its chairperson in January 2017, lacks the will and wherewithal to end suffering in South Sudan. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development has gone through the motions but failed.

The UN is more preoccupied with the finer nuances of international laws to grow some teeth, yet Kiir and Machar have shown they are worse and deadlier than ISIS murderers. Between them, they have caused more deaths than ISIS put together.

The gloves must come off. Key institutions having failed; niceties of international treaties aside, it would be bearable if the US (big brother) flexed its muscles and meted out the same punishment given to Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and free the people of South Sudan from this emotional, mental and physical slavery. Embargos can only hurt the vulnerable more.

Meanwhile, Kenya should nationalise whatever assets these two killers have in Nairobi. AU member states must declare Kiir and Machar persona non grata. The clowns cannot go anywhere near America or Europe. With nowhere to run and no finances to replenish their war chests, the cobwebs covering their brains and eyes may clear.

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