The newest country on earth, South Sudan, was once ruled by Egypt. The last but one monarch of Egypt, King Farouk, was overthrown in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. After he went into exile in Rome, it was said that his girlfriends were like his flats – each one cheaper and shabbier than the last.
Sudan, which he claimed as part of his kingdom in 1951 after the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was revoked by the Egyptian parliament, has likewise had a succession of girlfriends of dubious character – British, Egyptian, Soviet, Arab and Islamist. This was the reason given for the Christian south to be lopped off from the Islamist north to become the new state of South Sudan. But now the nature of the new “country” has become clear, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that South Sudan has merely left one painted gold digger for an even shabbier one.
South Sudan, like Georgia, is an American forward operating base, awash with weapons and shady figures, including those most expensive of all harlots, USAID projects. US-organised weapons and money have been flowing for years to various chosen, unelected figures in this troubled country, even though any aid should have been administered through official Sudan. It is what they call “funding terrorism” when another power is doing it.
South Sudan is one of the largest recipients of U.S. bilateral aid in sub-Saharan Africa. While the north-south Sudanese Civil War was going on Washington claimed that it was focusing on ending the conflict and brokering a political reconciliation. This would lead hearers to believe that it wanted the warring parties to live together in peace.
However the U.S. aid to the South Sudanese forces, described as “humanitarian support”, was used to help the young country gain its independence. A simple comparison of the costs involved in aid projects, even the official ones in the books, and the costs of the US weapons used makes it clear that “humanitarian support” meant ensuring the country was split in two by force of arms.
If a bickering married couple set aside their differences by divorcing and living in separate homes, this would not be regarded by most people as reconciliation. But this solution conveniently created an eternally “good” and eternally “bad” side, meaning that the worst actions and the worst corruption could be justified by saying that it is committed in support of a known good against a known bad. Good has triumphed, so longer needs to actually be good, or have any good effect whatsoever.
This scenario sound familiar? Very, probably: Saakashvili in Georgia, Marcos in the Philippines, Papa Doc in Haiti and now the neo-Nazis of Ukraine – they were the good side, fighting the known enemies of “Communism” or “lack of reform”, their crimes were excused, everything their paymasters did was justified for that reason.
Sudan is often overlooked in the bigger scheme of things, a war over oil in a faraway country where everyone knew the government was genocidal. Does anyone really think the US is not interested in Africa? South Sudan has now joined the very unsavoury club whose members have caught nasty diseases from the same girlfriend.
Leopards and spots
There has been a political struggle in South Sudan ever since its independence was declared on 9 July 2011, an independence which was supposed to end conflict. This demonstrates, as it has in many countries with a US-sponsored governments, that so-called “popular uprisings” are often no such thing – because people vote for independence, it does not mean they want the new country to be run by the people the US favours, but they are only usually asked when they have no effective choice.
Thousands of lives have been lost since independence and more than 1.2 million South Sudanese are now internally displaced. Political rivalries have taken on ethnic dimensions, pre-independence ethnic conflicts have intensified, atrocities are being committed in every province and men, women, and children are being caught in the crossfire.
All this was previously held to be due to the malign influence of the North, which is predominantly Moslem and therefore must always be on the other side. Now the narrative has had to be rewritten, all the principles the independence advocates fought for have, as usual, been thrown out of the window in order to do so.
The US-sanctioned president in South Sudan, Salva Kiir, has used the conflict to postpone the 2015 presidential elections, saying that the country’s warring factions need time to reconcile before a vote can be held. The warring factions maintain that they are fighting because Kiir displayed this attitude from day one, being determined to hold on to power indefinitely in a country just as much theirs as his.
Newly independent countries often have civil wars because certain interests, which are often unelected or unelectable, nevertheless feel they have a right to be represented and think they are not. Their real, unspoken accusation however is that the people in charge have powerful backers whose presence undermines democracy. The ones favoured by the sponsor will always win the elections because their sponsors will ensure it, regardless of the popular will. This is not the democratic future the US promises all its friends.
The US knows better than anyone that people who are fighting won’t vote. Give lots of smaller groups a reason to fight, your friends stay in power for as long as you supply the weapons. In return, you can do what you like, which is usually whatever you can’t do at home because it would be too big a scandal.
On December 15, 2013 the greatest wave of violence so far hit the country, provoked by disputes between Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, who are also from different tribes. In line with its existing policy, the US has made clear that it will not countenance the removal of the elected government.
Has it heard of a place called Ukraine? One called Syria? Has it forgotten that the elected government is there because US arms and funds created the country it governs, which was taken away from the elected government of Sudan?
South Sudan’s new girlfriend is, as ever, more selective in its memory than its choice of partners. However it is consistent in one respect – it is doing the same thing to South Sudan as it did to all the other poor suckers who thought she was offering them a good time.
At present, a ceasefire is in operation and talks are being held to create an inclusive government. Similar ceasefires were agreed several times during the Sudanese Civil War, increasingly at the behest of the US.
Despite the outcome of those, the latest lull in fighting between the Kiir and Machar factions – not the conflicts involving many other factions – is once again being trumpeted as a triumph of US diplomacy. In testimony to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary at the Bureau for African Affairs at the US State Department, said:
“We have galvanized support to end hostilities and open a broader dialogue between the two sides; called for accountability for atrocities; sought to secure the release of political detainees now being held in Juba…. we proposed and the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution nearly doubling the authorized troop ceiling for UNMISS…. As my colleague, Assistant Administrator Lindborg will discuss, we have just committed an additional $50 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to pressing new needs arising from the crisis.”
Once again, this is very familiar language. In the Reagan era the rhetoric of “evil empire” gave way to that of partnership, to the extent that the US opposed any of its ideological fellow-travellers, once brave “freedom fighters”, declaring their countries independent. Then the best bets among these rebels were supported with weapons, aid and peacekeepers, despite their own violence, as long as they didn’t get in the way of establishing arms supply routes, chemical weapons facilities, dumping groups for aid staff who got into trouble elsewhere and the “laundering” of gangsters and terrorists into useful politicians, as outlined in previous articles about many countries.
If the best bets let the US down, they too would be removed through unrest or an armed revolt described as a popular revolution against crimes the US suddenly discovered they had committed. Then the cycle would begin again, with the support given to the favoured ones effectively excluding all others, undermining democracy and giving the US free reign, until the next wave of US policy failures.
At each of these stages the US has created conflict with the express purpose of ensuring victory for its favoured side. At each stage the US has then spoken about the need to end the conflict, the good work it has done, and now how its honest brokerage has stopped the fighting and helped introduce greater respect for American values.
All the ceasefire has done however is not introduce those values as a peacekeeping tool, but prepare the ground for saying that, in any subsequent conflict, the good side must have won. Any subsequent action by its favoured side must, in US thinking and PR, have been being taken to support, not violate, a US-sponsored treaty because the US wrote the treaty, so its supporters will not violate it.
The US brokering a ceasefire in a country which receives a higher percentage of US aid than most is therefore itself an aggressive act. It arms one side with a morality it may not have, and the right to defend it, as the side not favoured by the US must be at fault in any breach of a US-brokered agreement. If you really want to stop the fighting, you take the guns away, which the US can do in South Sudan as it supplied most of them, often through channels of questionable legality.
All sides in South Sudan know the reality of US involvement, and the distribution of power at the heart of the conflict will not be altered by any ceasefire. The fighting will not stop. All sides know that they are being led down the road to ruin and eternal dependency, but there is nothing they can do about it.
It has recently been pointed out, with reference to photos of the devastation in Syria, that all the countries the US enters on a humanitarian mission end up looking like that, and usually didn’t before. Having been cheated and abused by its previous girlfriends South Sudan has taken on a more glamorous looking one promising more fun. It already knows, however, what the sordid old hag will leave it with at the end of the day.
Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.