Sunday, October 30, 2011

Disunity in the Unity State

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan gained independence from the Sudanese government, a development which many hoped would end the decades of civil war sparked by ethnic tension, religion and socio-economic inequality. Now, less than four months later, rebels from the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) have warned U.N. officials and local residents to evacuate the the Unity State. The rebels stated that their aim is to overthrow the local government and claim that they are fighting corruption, ethnic discrimination and underdevelopment.[1]. The problems that plagued the Sudanese state for decades seem to be appearing in post-independence South Sudan as well. The Unity State, which is dominated by the Dinka ethnic group, holds close to 98% of the country's oil fields.

The question is, will the United States get involved if the SSLA seriously threatens the South Sudanese government? On the one hand, the U.S. government had been pushing for a state of South Sudan since the Clinton administration[2]. Now that independence has finally been achieved, surely the U.S. wouldn't want the state to fall victim to civil war and weak government rule, similar to Somalia. On the other hand, having already intervened in the independence movement in Libya and deployed special force troops into Uganda, will it be too much for the U.S. to get involved in another African country? Or is it part of Obama's agenda for greater military involvement on the eastern coast of Africa to counter terrorist groups like Al-Shabab and the Lord's Resistance Army?

In mid-November the Unity State was bombed, allegedly by the Sudanese government.The UN has subsequently called for an investigation in the matter. The South Sudanese government, along with the U.S., are certain that the culprit was indeed Sudan. There is also evidence that the Sudanese government has begun strengthening its bombing capabilities on its southern border.[3] Despite this, the U.S. has only called for the Sudanese government to "show restraint." America should pay closer attention to the developments here and not be afraid to intervene -- the border situation here is eerily similar to that between Congo and Rwanda in the early 1990s. What a disaster it would be if South Sudan, less than a year after gaining independence, was invaded by its neighbor to the north.

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