Tuesday, December 13, 2016
As we continuously hear from the Obama Administration about Aleppo, among the other international events laid at the feet of President Obama’s foreign policy we do not hear of inclusive of Yemen is South Sudan. Established after a referendum vote to secede from the northern part of Sudan and the Khartoum government, and once touted as a way to formalize peace to Sudan’s long-running civil war, this small oil rich nation has dissolved into pure blood stained disorder. Even famous actors the likes of George Clooney and Don Cheadle advocated for its existence as being a humanitarian necessity to show the people we in the west cared.
For years prior to its formulation (not formation), the US supported rebels in the south of Sudan. After the nation of South Sudan was formed, the U.S. continued to provide billions of dollars in military and security assistance to the fledgling country under the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton’s State Department. In 2011 then Secretary of State Clinton, at a major conference onSouth Sudan in 2011, spoke of her visions for the future of South Sudan. Ironically, in the same year in which President Obama employed a technicality to get a Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) exemption for South Sudan.
The logic was feculent and two fold. First being that the law could not be applied to a newly formed nation that recently became independent and second, the administration wanted the country to get on firm ground before the US made any statutory request of its military. Meaning that since the countries subjected to CSPA were already in existence, they could not add the South Sudan to thelist. The Obama administration also openly advocated their support for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). The SPLA according to human rights group worldwide have been documented to have engaged in numerous human rights violations, including but not limited to rape and extrajudicial killings (nice UN saying for murder).
However since the celebration of South Sudan as the world’s newest member state in 2011, a political rivalry between the Dinka President Salva Kiir and the then Nuer Vice President Riek Machar erruptrd dissolving the nation into a civil war along ethnic lines. Since then more than 1 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries like Uganda and many thousands more have been slaughtered, tortured or raped. One UN report noted that South Sudanese army soldiers had raped thousands of women and girls as a reward for their service instead of being paid salaries. Others had been used as part of ritual cannibalistic activities or burned alive.
But none of this mattered to the Obama Administration. Although in his formal recognition statement for the Republic of South Sudan as a sovereign and independent state he described it as a “historic achievement” after “the darkness of war,” his policy has proven the opposite and has resulted in more bloodshed and insecurity by not ending the use of child soldiers on the one hand and by turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the nation he pushed to establish on the other. What the president once hailed as one of his foreign policy success stories, is now merely a failed state in reality - unless it is the desire for Nobel Peace prize winning presidents to leave nations in the ruinous aftermath of war (Yemen, Libya and Syria also included).
Obama in concert with his National Security Advisor Susan Rice vehemently led the crusade for the creation of South Sudan, but since then, we have only seen daily tribal hostilities continuing to fester. Add to this that the economic condition is following a similar descending path and that state sponsored repression remains a major impediment to any form of democratic government, what we get from the President is silence or troops. Nor does he address how the ongoing violence rests as a massive obstacle to peace which on its own serves as a catalyst for the continuing genocide in Darfur and a growing militarization of the party’s involved. In particular since the present administration continues to honor the authorization of more than $120 million in U.S. military assistance and over $20 million in arms sales since FY2013 and an addition request for $30 million in military assistance for South Sudan for FY2017.
Now it would be insincere to place all of this at the feet of President Obama since a sizable amount of his foreign policy was advocated for and proposed by Hillary Clinton. As a presidential candidate, Clinton consistently presented her foreign policy experience as a major justification for her being president, although she never spoke openly about her desire to intervene in Libya or her role in the failed Russian “reset.” More importantly, there was no mention of the outcome of her efforts in South Sudan. True in 2012 she openly stated her disparagement of the use and recruitment of children as soldiers, however it was a position in dire contrast to her part in allowing South Sudan receive US military support via her approval of waivers to the nation while it used children as fighters. Still Clinton’s handling of South Sudan and how the new nation descended into a calamitous civil war that involved the use of thousands of child soldiers is rarely reported.
When President Obama leaves the White House next January, people worldwide will question his foreign policy. This will likely be partisan but the objective individual will note from Yemen to Libya and Syria to South Sudan – he was afailure. Moreover, he managed to make social and economic situations in these places worse. But in Sudan he will be remembered for creating a state and leaving it to rot; a place where he waived to the prohibition on the use of child soldiers in an untried country that is acknowledged as being one of the most corrupt in the world and the home of a 4-year-old civil war where US installed leaders have used their positions to rob the country of its wealth, while at the same time creating one of the greatest humanitarian disasters today – in essence an embarrassment for the Obama administration. As a newly formed country, the future looked bright for South Sudan and its vast oil reserves. But realty has shown us otherwise, that effective foreign policy demands more than words and dumping huge sums of money in the hands of installed puppets.