Having spent four and a half years living in Lesotho as a Peace Corps Director, I speak of Africa with a deep respect and a love of the land and the people. My years were filled with friendships, community help in schools and farms done by the Peace Corps volunteers (PCV's) and traveling that awesome land of southern Africa to view the landscape and the animals, big and small.
Famine and international structures have failed to destroy the land and the people, though they have tried. Once more, this time in the 'new' South Sudan, a nation engineered and created by the USA and its nongovernmental agencies, Africa as once more been ill served by American interests. American power created this state and now has left it to rot. Those whose voices came to bear in the creation are nowhere to be found as the South Sudanese kill and maim one another or just let people die from faulty, corrupt structures. The women of this improvised nation are subjected to brutal rapes and constant inattention. As in all famines, the young and the old die first. Millions are on the edge of existence. Thousands have died already.
Sudan, the country from which South Sudan came, itself is a massive, massive human rights violator. The lost and burnt villages of Darfur are enough proof of that. The campaign to save Darfur was a modest success in the sense it got world attention for a time and did bring some comfort and protection to the people living there. But given that the campaign was called Darfur, the campaign lacked clarity due to its name. Why? No one remembers where Darfur is and that is a problem. Most people would not know what country Darfur was in. Once out of supporting news, this region of Sudan is quickly forgotten. A better thought would have been to call it "Sudan' campaign, not Darfur. Name the oppressor; show the face of Bashir, the oppressor; place the problem inside of Sudan... Here again, Africa was ill served.
What can be done for South Sudan now? Just as how an invaded nation becomes the invaders' problem, so true with this. Iraq is the perfect example. Same when one creates a nation, it becomes yours until it works reasonably well. The American government must not walk away from this land and it s people. But it has. Food aid needs to go in immediately. Donations need to be given to the nongovernmental agencies working there by the same lobby that worked to create this strange little state. We need mediators who work with all sides to stem the tide of death with a multinational response. Nation building and creation are not the role of the USA in Africa, as sure as the times when the British decided the Middle East. Good will gone goony, to be frank.
Given the record of the USA letting Mandela rot in a South African jail for 26 years, my guess is that Americans like ex-prisoners, not prisoners. American activity and support for all of southern Africa in the apartheid period of history was so minimal in overcoming white power that it is not worth remembering. Today, American drones are striking in Somalia and Libya. While these drones kill many innocent people, death in South Sudan has been due to disease and famine and soldiers rampaging. The risk of inaction is the possible death of two to four million South Sudanese. Maybe this will end with an apology like Clinton's about Rwanda and Srebrenica. Africa needs action, not apologies.
Letting South Sudan drop into the list of failed nations could be one of Obama's regrettable legacies. Even the weak United Nations in the person of Ban Ki-moon showed up in this newly created nation recently. It does help though. Nicholas Kristof's New York Times column, The Killing Field, (Feb 28, 16) calls for arms embargo, sanctions on leaders and more help. Too little too late. But where are the creators of this nation? Let them go back and settle the gigantic problems of this nation. My sense is the decision was a wrong-headed one, not of the South Sudanese but of their supporters here in Washington DC.
Africa deserves better from this President. Congress and State and POTUS need to find a way to save this struggling and failing nation.
March 21 is a great day to start his effort. It is the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day was chosen by the United Nations because it is the anniversary of the Sharpville Massacre in South Africa in 1960 when the South African soldiers killed 69 citizens in a peaceful demonstration. March 21 needs to be celebrated because it should remind the West that they allowed Nelson Mandela rot in jail for 26 years because of the color of his skin. That mistake must never be repeated.