Tuesday, February 11, 2014

South Sudan: Foreign Policy via Hollywood



Over the past several years I have written about the foreign policy modus operandi of the Obama Administration. I have examined it in general and in specific relations with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, Iraq and China among others.  I have also proffered my examination on the United States policy as it pertains to the Sudan as well, both holistically and from the practices of past and the current executive administration.  However, given the recent developments of strife and in-fighting among the major ethnic and political leadership of the recently formed nation of South Sudan, I have been inspired to describe my perspective more clearly.

As we are aware, it was only three years ago this month when the South Sudanese people held a referendum and voted overwhelmingly to form an independent nation state free from the rest of Sudan. The United States helped negotiate this referendum, which ended more than 20 years of brutal conflict between north and south of Sudan. This in essence was the primary goal of the foreign policy objective of the Obama Administration pertaining to the Sudan – nothing more and nothing less.

Unfortunately, due to several factors including but not limited to the false and dichotomous narrative that the situation of South Sudan was singularly a function of people wanting freedom (good Christians) from the evils of Khartoum (bad Muslims) was all that was needed to be addressed. This limited and myopic perspective consequently was coupled with flawed political intelligence gathering and has resulted in the chaos and likelihood of an ethnic-political civil war developing in South Sudan. There was even little if any historical cloak of understanding as to how and why Africa's largest state and former British Colony, came to this dire predicament in the first place.  The question then is how this could happen with the resources and presupposed intellectual capital freely available to the United States State department and executive leadership?

First, the formulating of a good versus bad indices for evaluating political required action is problematic from the start.  It reduces the scope of vision to evaluate all parties equally. This is not uncommon when it pertains to the US and Africa because in most cases we place our own interest in front of all nations we assist in Africa that are of perceived geopolitical importance to our material needs. Most significantly the geopolitical advantages that a nation state will have supporting a nation that not only has the Nile River flowing through it, but also which is rich in Silver, Gold, Zinc, Copper, Chromium and last but not least, petroleum among others. South Sudan produced 85% of Sudanese oil output, with oil revenues comprising more than 98% of the government of the South Sudanese budget. These were our entry points on the one hand without applying equal consideration to other factors, namely that the economy of South Sudan is one of the weakest in the world, with one of the highest maternal mortality and female illiteracy rates around the globe where there is very limited infrastructure. In addition, there was understanding at all of the historical ethnic problems in the region between South Sudan's Dinka and Nuer tribes.

Second, and what may be more impactful, is that the charge for South Sudan’s Independence was not led by the leadership of Africa or Washington, DC, but rather by a limited coterie of famous and wealthy Obama campaign donating celebrities out of Hollywood. George Clooney and others have done more to create the nation of South Sudan than any figures in the United States Federal Government or the citizens of South Sudan.

The acting ability of the Hollywood elite was able to persuade politicians, in particular the current administration to look at the issue simply from the binders of more than twenty years of war that the inhabitants of the region had been engaged in against the predominantly Islamic North who was led by an “indicted war criminal” intent to do what it take including rape and genocide of the mainly Christian South to take back its lost oilfields. Thus, for America and the Obama administration, the issue of dealing with South Sudan was simply a matter of human rights as opposed to establishing and maintains security instruments or functioning non-sectarian instruments of executive political leadership required to sustain a democracy.

Since December, when the fighting began, over a 1,000 people have been as a consequence of the US limited understanding which facilitated a power struggle between the ethnic Dinka President SalvaKiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, who is Nuer.

This is the typical US mantra when human rights are lifted above political and historical realities. Although Hollywood and the American Religious right yelled Christian versus Muslim and Arabs foe, the issue for the people on the frontlines of the battle field, mainly John Garang and the Sudan People'sLiberation Army (SPLA) desired and shed their blood for a unified, new and democratic Sudan – not two nations.  This like movies was created from thin air by Hollywood entities. Then, which may be more disturbing if the US State Department didn’t know, they were not even fighting against Sudanese military by rather other rival militia groups. In simple terms, it was not the people of the South who wanted an independent state, but rather Europe, the UN, the US and to some extent other regional players the likes of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Thus, either intentionally or unintentionally, the US as well as the Hollywood middle men that pushed for a separate South Sudan never acknowledged, admitted to, accepted or even worse, never knew or even lied when it concerned the existence of ethnic tensions and animosity in the South. The goal and objective was separation at any cost, in particularly given Susan Rice’s history with the Sudan while serving in the Clinton Administration.

And after the state was formed in 2011, we have ignored the reality on the ground. We have turned a blind out to political incompetence and government dysfunction and mismanagement and bribes and cronyism. The Obama administration and its Hollywood supports said nothing when the newly elected President Kiir openly claimed the governmental theft of billions in state money and foreign aid. Likewise when he began to serve the needs of the Dinka over the rival ethnic group the Nuer, again there was silence. All the while the likes of George Clooney were still raising money for “humanitarian” purposes.

Finally, President Kiir removed all of those he felt were a threat and wanted to take over the government ( vice-president, Riek Machar), that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and may result in what could prove to be worse than what we saw in the 1990s. Especially since the former vice President control the oil fields in the country.

America may need to step back a little and slow down when it comes to just implanting foreign policy for the sake of pleasing campaign donors, especially when the folk they aim to please are movie stars from Hollywood.