Friday, December 27, 2013

How the U.S. Triumph in South Sudan Came Undone. By Colum Lynch.

How the U.S. Triumph in South Sudan Came Undone. By Colum Lynch. Foreign Policy, December 26, 2013. Also here.

The White House bet on guerrilla fighters changing their warring ways. Turns out it was a bad bet.

Drill Down. By Keith Johnson. Foreign Policy, December 23, 2013. Also here.


Earlier this month, Riek Machar, South Sudan’s first vice president, returned to what he knows best, leading an armed insurgency being fought by members of his Nuer tribe. In recent days, the fighting has escalated sharply, engulfing several of the country's 10 provinces, and bringing the young nation to the brink of civil war.
The stakes are high for the United States, as fighting threatens to upend one of the most important foreign policy initiatives of the last two decades in sub-Saharan Africa – one that unified Republicans, Democrats, African Americans, human rights advocates, and Christians. On Saturday, four U.S. troops were wounded when their V-22 Osprey came under fire during an aborted operation to evacuate U.S. nationals from the town of Bor. An additional 150 Marines have been sent to the region to prep for possible future evacuations.
It’s an extraordinary and painful development, given America’s major role in securing independence for South Sudan. But the toughest part for Americans to swallow may be that it’s the U.S.-backed leaders of South Sudan – the supposed good guys – that are responsible for plunging the country into chaos and threatening to wreck America's signature achievement in the region.
“A whole generation of U.S. leaders that are invested in the success of South Sudan are heartbroken; I’m heartbroken about what going on there, especially because you don’t see the hand of Khartoum in this,” said [U.S. diplomat] Cameron Hudson. “I think it’s going to be very [difficult] to get the genie back in to the bottle. These guys are good at fighting and they are comfortable doing it.”


But turning that oil promise into reality faces plenty of daunting challenges, as underscored by the violence in South Sudan over the last week. Security looms largest, because it is a precondition both to develop the oil itself and also to build the pipelines, roads, and rail lines the region needs to make energy development a reality. But cronyism, weak laws, poor governance, corruption, and domestic politics can combine to scuttle hopes of a quick energy-fired economic bonanza.
“There is a myth that many oil companies and policy makers subscribe to, which is that economic interests will trump everything else. What gets discounted, is that in some places in Africa, there is a different calculus. Tribal animosities, personal animosities, political grudges  all those weigh a lot heavier, and there are a lot of people willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces,” said the Atlantic Council’s J. Peter Pham.