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Thursday, September 8, 2016

South Sudan Should Rebuild its Lost International 'Innocence'

South Sudan was a darling of the west during the war of liberation. US, the EU and other international allies stood by South Sudan anytime there was a disagreement between Khartoum and the then southern rebels. The general narrative in the 'west' then was 'innocent' south against the 'belligerent' north.

However, after independence, the south lost the then innocence. As a sovereign country in the group of nations, the standards  applied to every country was turned against it. Not only did Juba, now the seat of the southern leadership, assume that the 'west' would always stand by it, it also assumed that 'Truth' is something that is so apparent that everyone can see it. The leadership would soon realize  the nature of diplomacy and the honest dishonesty in international relations.

The disputed area of Abyei, the south's takeover of Panthou in 2012 and Juba support for the SPLM-North cost South Sudan its innocence. While Khartoum has always been belligerent toward the south, the southern leaders didn't know that 'this is ours and everyone should know it' is not a formidable defense in international politics. Instead of making their case before the United Nations, Juba started to act in a manner that displeased its allies and the international community. Juba, instead of Khartoum, was the belligerent party. That reality stomped South Sudanese leaders in Juba!

While Panthou, in all honesty, belongs to the South, the manner in which Juba acted was imprudent and rash. This earned Juba its first, stern international condemnation. And folks in Juba couldn't understand why they were being condemned when Panthou belongs to the south and that Khartoum was the one that provoked them. To their chagrin, they realized that after-the-fact explanations are usually seen as an excuse.

But instead of sending its diplomats to foreign capitals and to the UN to smooth out the situation, the president and his officials started to condemn the UN and the international community as being 'unfair.' From that time on, the relationship between South Sudan and the international community only went one way: downward.

This sour relationship turned Juba officials against the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Allegations and events that are not well researched were used to criticize UN as working against Juba, and to some extent, a parallel government. However, UNMISS did more in five years than what the government has done in over ten years.

So when the UN Security Council members went to Juba last weekend, I thought it was time for the government to re-establish its relations with the world. There are many crises in the world. But the fact that the UNSC decided to go to Juba is a testimony of the seriousness with which UN takes the suffering of the people of South Sudan.

Juba should therefore use this opportunity to correct its mistakes and regain its lost innocence.