South Sudan’s First Candle Enter Tony Blair
The Republic of South Sudan is one year old. Marking the event there have been wildly uneven and contradictory comments. The most optimistic cite the progress that has been achieved in one year. Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State used the word “admirable” to describe South Sudan’s efforts “over the past year, building government structures and a foundational legal framework “and “working to provide security”, accountability and systemic respect for human rights”. The SPLM embarked on a thanksgiving tour of all ten states acknowledging the population’s support during the civil war.
At the opposite end of reactions, the French Africa expert and long time critic of Khartoum, Dr. G. Prunier resigned as advisor to the South Sudan government describing the leadership to Dr. Howard French of Columbia University in words that are so hurtful that we prefer not to quote them (The Atlantic 22nd June 2012). Less harsh; but equally abrasive because of the author’s Southern Sudanese nationality are the words of H. Legge that too many South Sudanese have been excluded from economic, social and political spoils of independence. He described the new state as perhaps the world’s “newest problem child”. He has taken the decision not to return from abroad until the government “demonstrates more accountability, transparency, respect for human rights and genuine political pluralism.” (Guardian 10th July 2012)
Steven Wondu, the country’s Auditor General has published a report stating that billions of taxpayers’ money were lost in fake contracts, inflated payrolls while some institutions were crash-starved, others received more funds than were legally authorised (Sudan Tribune 17th July). He provided more details to what President Kirr has publicly declared about missing billions.
What about the “Mother Country”, the Republic of the Sudan? No opinion poll has been taken; but it is indisputable that the scars of the two civil wars have generated a public opinion in favour of secession. Western media and diplomacy are invariably silent about Northern Sudanese casualties and grievances. There is barely a mention of the 1955 massacre of Northern teachers and civil servants in the South (which President S. Kiir hailed as the beginning of liberation struggle!), the 1960’s rumour-based attacks by Southerners in the north against homes and offices before they realized that the Minister of Interior’s plane has landed safely and again when Dr. John Garang’s plane crashed in 2005. The devastation of the economy for financing the civil war is seldom mentioned.
The Republic of the Sudan accepted pragmatically the 98% plus result of the referendum (and closed both eyes judiciously on irregularities and on the SPLM campaigning for secession in contravention to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that stipulated commitment to unity). Although they accepted that the Southern Sudanese yearning for secession was the main dynamic, the general public as well as the political class and establishment knew full well that without overt and covert diplomatic and military support for the SPLA/M by certain forces in the West mainly in the US and Israel, the Sudan would not have broken up into two countries.
There is also, a sense of disappointment and betrayal as a result of the final result of the CPA. Readiness to lose population, land and resources including 75% of oil-producing wells as a price for peace was rewarded with more war and international community reneging on promises and plans to ease the financial gap created by secession and end sanctions.
There is, however, a silver lining to the gloomy picture, and it comes from an unlikely source. It has been declared that the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has become an adviser to the government of South Sudan. This is of great significance because it shows awareness that “civil war friends and advisers” who have had unchallenged access to the decision-makers in the new state will not be the ONLY voices there. The civil war friends and advisers (listed well in Alan Boswell’s Foreign Policy Magazine seminal article (9th July 2012) Roger winter, John Prendergast, Gayle Smith, Ted Dagne and not least Susan Rice) will now compete with a voice of moderation encouraging the new nation to adopt peace time policies suitable for a post-civil war era, abandon warlike thinking and brinkmanship and look after South Sudanese is citizens welfare instead of continuing the civil war by other means in pursuit of the illusion to bring about regime change in the mother country.
The timing of Blair’s role is also significant, because it came after the meeting in Addis Ababa between Presidents Bashir and Kiir that created a different psychological environment for talks.
The visit of “The Elders” on the occasion of the 1st anniversary was an opportunity for stock-taking in South Sudan .Unfortunately the Elders did not proceed to Khartoum, mainly because Archbishop Desmond Tutu in an uncharacteristic lapse has misinterpreted the role of the Elders whose forte is being above political bias and manoeuvres. His statement supporting the ICC against the Sudan and its President has compromised his role. The ICC is a controversial tool that has been manipulated against Africa while the crime of aggression is excluded from its remit in order to protect the super powers and their close allies.
By his hasty statement, Desmond Tutu has placed the Elders awkwardly on the side of the ICC against the African Union. He has reduced his huge prestige to the level of Mia Farrow, George Clooney and similar celebrities who have been co-opted in the over-simplication of the complexities of the Darfur crisis and for legitimising the flawed ICC.
Hopefully, Tony Blair’s Charity will proceed more sensitively if it hopes to be listened to in Africa.
By Khalid Al Mubarak,firstname.lastname@example.org, 28/07/2012