Sunday, December 22, 2013

South Sudan

Africa's newest independent state, South Sudan seems to be rapidly sliding into civil war. For decades the OAU (Organization of African Unity) had a strict policy of accepting the borders established under colonial rule for independent African states. Attempts by Katanga in Congo to secede were strongly opposed by African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. Later in 1967, the attempt by Biafra to break away from Nigeria received some limited African support from Tanzania, Zambia, Ivory Coast, and Gabon. However, the Nigerian military succeeded in crushing the attempt to create an independent Biafran state. The first successful alteration of African borders took place in 1993 when Eritrea became a recognized independent state after a UN supervised referendum. From 1961 to 1991, the ELF(Eritrean Liberation Front) and later EPLF (Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front)  fought a guerrilla war against Ethiopia. The primary backers of the Eritrean guerrillas were various Arab governments. Eritrea had been an Italian colony before WWII and then after a brief period of British rule was first federated with Ethiopia in 1951 and then completely annexed by Addis Ababa in 1962. The existence of distinct colonial borders dividing Eritrea from Ethiopia which was never colonized, however, meant that technically that this case adhered the old OAU policy of enforcing old colonial borders and not recognizing secessionist states. South Sudan was the first breakaway state in Africa to completely violate the policy of accepting the colonial borders drawn by the European powers. Like Eritrea it too had fought a decades long war for independence. The Second Sudanese Civil War lasted from 1983 to 2005 and was in many ways a continuation of the First Sudanese Civil War from 1955 to 1972. In January 2011 a referendum for independence led to South Sudan becoming an independent state on  9 July 2011. Now this state is proving to be unstable and may ultimately prove  not to be viable. There is now fighting within South Sudan between opposing political factions.  Four US airmen have been wounded in the process of evacuating US citizens from the country. But, I see no advantage for the US to intervening in South Sudan militarily to try and restore order. The continuing Balkanization of Africa has not solved the various problems that have beset the continent. South Sudan has gone from being at war with Khartoum to being at war with itself.

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