U.S. involvement in South Sudan

Posted on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm

The Ethnic crisis in South Sudan is now taking an international turn. The United States has jumped into the fray and Secretary of State John Kerry believes that the war-torn country can have a peaceful way out. Washington, which had been instrumental in working for the independence of South Sudan, wants more peacekeepers to be deployed and is also looking for sanctions against the African leaders.

The announcement came from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa where the African leaders met on Saturday to consider various options to end the crisis, which has rendered more than 100,000 people homeless and killed thousands.

The point is America’s thrust on sanctions against Juba, but whether it works or not is anybody’s guess. Of late, the White House had come out with crippling sanctions against Kremlin for its involvement in Ukraine, and that move had hardly any impact on the Russian leadership. It is thus incomprehensible to imagine how sanctions can work in the marshlands of South Sudan where tribal, ethnic and lingual connections rule the roost and there isn’t any writ of the government since President Salva Kiir had fallen out with his deputy Riek Machar.

The consensus in Addis Ababa, the diplomatic fulcrum of the African Union, is being led by Tedros Adhanom, the Ethiopian foreign minister who wants the world community to be as aggressive as possible in nailing down the rogue elements that have resorted to violence. In such a policy perspective, it has found the US an agreeing partner, who also advocates a greater role for international peacekeeping forces in the region. But there is a dichotomy in such an approach. The US had kept itself aloof from similar flashpoints in East Africa, such as Mali, Chad, CAR and other places, and a very limited role in Somalia. That part of Africa was led and operated by France and Britain. So was its approach in Libya, which the US technically abandoned after the attack on its diplomatic premises in Benghazi.

If the undercurrent of US involvement in South Sudan is oil, then it is likely to make the mosaic more confusing. The fact that Juba sits on huge oil reserves and the same is transited across Khartoum in the north will demand proactive but unbiased diplomacy from the US. Saturday’s memorandum of understanding wherein Kiir agreed to meet Machar on Kerry’s persuasion for a tête-à-tête is a major achievement. All they need to do is to revisit their January accord and implement it in real spirit.

-Khaleej Times, Dubai

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