If the latest news out of Juba is anything to go by, then a full blown South Sudan civil #war is imminent. That this is coming at a time when the country is meant to be celebrating five years since independence from Khartoum is ironic but not at all shocking; at least not to me and anyone who has been following events in that country closely and by extension other African countries where tribalism is rife.
A brief history of South Sudan.
South Sudan was part of Sudan under the control of Khartoum. After decades of a bloody struggle trying to gain autonomy, South Sudan finally held a referendum in a process largely midwived by Kenya, culminating in its secession in July 2011. The country’s independence might be the perfect description of what one of #Africa’s greatest musicians, Lucky Dube, described as ‘Mickey Mouse Freedom’ (meaning freedom that never was) as the country has never had any stability even after the breakaway. With so many vested interests from the top leadership, most of whom were former army generals leading the onslaught against Sudan, the country degenerated into anarchy barely two years after independence.
Tribalism: Common denominator in most civil wars in Africa.
The political elite in Africa have over time used tribe as a tool to ascend to power. Very few elections are won on ideology; rather it’s a matter of who can marshal his tribesmen to rally behind him. Upon their election, cronyism becomes the order of the day where most #Government appointments are handed to the winning tribe. The contest in South Sudan pits the Dinka against the Nuer with the sitting President Salva Kiir being from the Dinka community while his Vice President and perennial rival, Riek Machar, from the Nuer. The politics of mistrust, betrayal and backstabbing have always manifested themselves even when South Sudan was fighting a ‘common enemy’ in the name of Sudan. For instance, Riek Machar was at one point in the same camp with the late John Garang (also a Dinka), who was South Sudan’s de facto leader before his demise in 2005. Riek later left to form a splinter force comprising mostly Nuers.
South Sudan economy & the East African economy.
The recent plunge in oil prices has had devastating effects on commodity-dependent economies such as Nigeria and Angola. For nascent economies like South Sudan, the effects have been near-catastrophic with the country having had to devalue the currency by a whopping 84%. The current crisis might compound the situation further as most business operations grind to a halt. South Sudan relies mostly on imported human capital and there has been an influx of professionals especially from Kenya into the country. The current situation means that these professional immigrants have to relocate back to their countries. For a country that relies on its neighbors for the most basic services such as education, this is a huge step backward from achieving civilization.
The economic impact of the refugee crisis that might arise out of the South Sudan civil war cannot be underestimated. Kenya has for decades hosted South Sudanese refugees at the Kakuma refugee camp. Kenya has already voiced its intention to close down the refugee camps citing insecurity and the huge financial burden occasioned by these refugee camps.
Regional Insecurity Crisis Compounded.
The East African region already faces a huge threat from al Qaeda linked Al shabaab operating mainly from Somalia (a country that has never known peace since 1991). Already the African Union (AU) already has a contingent of peacekeepers in Somalia dubbed AMISOM whose funding comes from the EU to try and pacify the country.
Should the war in South Sudan continue, AU might be forced to intervene which could mean scaling down the mission in Somalia. This could tip the balance in favour of the al Shaabab eroding the gains that have already been made by the security forces putting the region under intense threat.