For long, the mantra has been that African problems require African solutions. This stand arose from the West’s nosiness in African affairs and gained traction after the Chinese invasion of Africa. While the West attaches pre-aid governance conditions, the Chinese do not, instead preferring to keep clear of the internal politics of the countries they operate in. Thus, with the African leaders’ penchant for thievery, establishing rapport with the less inquisitive Chinese was the easier option.
Concerned more with the economic aspect of their interaction with African countries, and despite having a heavy presence in Kenya, the Chinese have not concerned themselves with the health of our neighbours, particularly the ailing, near comatose South Sudan. Neonatal sepsis set in soon after South Sudan was birthed by the Sudan in 2011 to become the world’s newest, most hopeful nation; a false hope, as it turned out.
While the African Union (AU) and other regional blocks were constituted to champion Africa’s peace cause, their existence is more in name than in actuality. The Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (Igad) only comes alive when bored heads of state choose to come together to give the appearance of working. Igad, the successor of Igadd, has spectacularly failed in its core mandate of spurring economic development and actualising environmental control in the region.
With Igad’s eight member states - Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti and South Sudan - each fighting their own incessant political wars, it is unlikely that development matters occupy them much. To borrow US President Donald Trump’s take on the United Nations, the tired old men’s club reference is more appropriate to the African Union. The lethargy in AU leads one to wonder whether it has given up on South Sudan. Sadly, six years down the line, South Sudan, a very hopeful nation in 2012, is perhaps the most desolate on earth today.
The recent threat by the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) to punish individuals obstructing peace in South Sudan is a sick joke that has been going on for far too long. Peace in South Sudan is episodic, the biggest impediment to the country’s exploiting of its economic potential, particularly in oil, whose reserves are estimated to be 250 million barrels. With people constantly on the move to escape some marauding gang of killers, be they soldiers of Salva Kiir or Riek Machar, agricultural production, so crucial to the sustenance of life and the grow South Sudan’s fledging economy, cannot take root.
Brokered truces by Kenya, Igad and the United Nations in Nairobi and Addis Ababa over the years have failed dismally to hold South Sudan together as forces loyal to Kiir and Machar engage each other, destroying everything in their wake.
While none of the belligerents is willing to take responsibility for the hostilities and bloodletting that erupted in 2013, barely two years into the country’s independence, the blame games and apparent lack of sincerity and political goodwill from both sides have made it impossible to find a permanent solution to this nagging problem.
Statistics from the South Sudan hostilities are depressing. More than 10,000 civilians have so far been killed, yet these are conservative figures.
More than two million people have been displaced internally while more than 200,000 have sought refuge in UN peacekeeper bases. But even there, peace is elusive as soldiers raid these false sanctuaries.
Poor South Sudanese are being butchered in a war they know nothing about, a war fuelled by Africa’s blight - tribalism - while the families of Kiir and Machar enjoy opulence, living in upmarket estates in Nairobi.
Such largesse bestowed on those who sanction murder puts into question Kenya’s commitment to building a peaceful South Sudan. The Government should consider repatriating the leaders’ families so that if South Sudan continues burning, they should also feel the pain and fear that Kiir and Machar have let loose.
The African solution to the South Sudan problem is not working. How long this will be allowed to continue as the cry for help from the country’s tortured population continues remains to be seen. It boggles the mind that two individuals, Kiir and Machar, should be allowed to continue subjecting millions of their countrymen to suffering, yet yanking them from leadership would be the sensible thing for South Sudan’s neighbours and the AU to do. No one with a conscience would mourn the eviction and incarceration of Kiir and Machar.
After president Julius Nyerere of Tanzania called then Uganda president Idi Amin’s bluff in 1979 by taking the war to him, Uganda started its journey to stability.
Forget the niceties of protocols; Nyerere’s way is the right prescription for South Sudan, not endless empty rhetoric.
Mr Chagema is a correspondent for the Standard. [email protected]