Heart-ache is the near permanent fate of the South Sudan watcher, but never is the pain more bitter than on July 9th. On this day three years ago today, South Sudan declared its independence after half a century of war with the North. Things were supposed to get better. Instead, the country has faced catastrophe on a scale that beggars belief.
The International Crisis Group’s latest update is sobering, as is nearly anything you can find these days about the civil war. The country looks to be on the verge of outright state collapse, with the army failing to pay its soldiers even as hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on arms-deals that end up fattening up the off-shore bank accounts of SPLA insiders.
Alongside these major insanities there are the minor ones, like the government announcing shoot-to-kill orders to enforce a curfew in Juba. On the eve of independence day. On the night of a World Cup semi-final.
Soccer may have been the last thing South Sudanese people had to look forward to. Now even that’s been taken away.
As for the future, well, it does not bear thinking about. Already, the window of opportunity for planting crops in Greater Upper Nile has closed. With so many displaced and so much insecurity, seeds didn’t go into the ground, so there’ll be nothing to harvest. And the humanitarian agencies that represent the last line of defense against famine don’t have the money to respond.
Now, the “Conflict + Drought = Famine” formula is sadly familiar in Central Africa. But what South Sudan faces in 2015 is something different: a major famine somewhere where the rains didn’t fail. The country is on the verge of an entirely man-made famine.
Some independence day…