SOUTH SUDAN FAMINE IS SELF-INFLICTED
The UN has criticised Juba of spending its revenue on arms and warfare instead of its people’s welfare
THE spectre of famine’s return to the African continent — in the latest case, to the world’s newest independent nation of South Sudan — reeks far too much of global goodwill gone all too rapidly to waste. South Sudanese are the latest in a long line of people all over the world on a journey to hell, paved with so many good intentions.
South Sudan was carved out of Sudan only barely six years ago. A world long weary and leery of new states being born out of serious political conflicts was in almost rare unanimity when, in 2011, the United Nations agreed to be midwife to South Sudan’s birth.
It was then argued that political frictions between Sudan’s Arab north and its black African south were such that they were unbridgeable, and the long-suffering south deserved to be a separate nation so it could better govern itself rather than from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
It was also convenient for outsiders — in particular the major global powers — that with its oil wealth, a newly-independent South Sudan would not be a UN ward (and thus, a drain on its resources) for an indeterminate and extended period. Or so, it was thought. How wrong international conventional wisdom has proven to be.
All too soon, supposedly an Arab versus black-African conflict had turned into one between major tribes within South Sudan itself. Whereas previously it was argued that South Sudan’s oil resources were extracted and piped north while the southerners wallowed in neglect and poverty, now that all its wealth is retained locally, the hapless new country is instead turning on itself.
The looming South Sudan famine is, therefore, nothing if not wholly self-inflicted. The UN has rightly criticised the government in Juba, the South Sudanese capital, of spending the bulk of its revenues on arms and warfare instead of its people’s welfare. The lethal combination of a government neglecting its most basic responsibilities to its own people and its obsession with liquidating its internal political foes in the battlefield rather than accommodating them within the political system is proving too much for innocent ordinary people caught in the crossfire.
South Sudan is only the latest and most extreme case of good intentions gone seriously awry. Look at Iraq and the totally misguided attempt by the United States to “democratise” it by force of arms. What now ensues is a highly dysfunctional state that threatens instead to splinter into its sectarian and ethnic components.
What, too, to make of Syria, where once a hotchpotch of diverse religions, sects and ethnicity lived relatively peaceably side by side when the bug of the “Arab Spring” caught on and brought in its wake nothing but death and destruction to this most ancient of societies?
Or closer to home, in Myanmar, where the democratic ascent of an internationally recognised human-rights icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, only brought on afresh a cruel and deeply abhorrent decimation of the Muslim Rohingya, to near-universal approval by the
FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2017 majority Buddhists in the country and the clear discomfort as well as utter silence of its icon turned leader?
Then, there is the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte takes a very hard and unforgiving line against drug pushers and even addicts and employs tactics to be rid of the menace, which touch raw nerves with the human-rights sensibilities of squeamish Western governments and domestic elites. As streets become far safer and ordinary Filipinos continue to give their president stratospheric approval ratings, the chorus of disapproval from supposedly sophisticated folk continues unabated.
Much of the world has, for too long, been seduced into unquestioning faith in the “democratic” way of governing ourselves and a stubborn belief that it should be an end in itself. The serious questioning that now emanates from the “democratic” West about how their respective societies are being negatively impacted by adopting liberal democracy, not just as a way to organise themselves, but as an end in itself, will serve greater humanity if it leads to more widespread and healthy questions as to whether such democracy should be serving a polity or the other way round.
For surely, it cannot be that most non-Western peoples do not seem capable of making liberal democracy work for them when the same is beginning to become all too apparent in major Western societies?
The so-called illiberal democracy that some of us in East Asia have refined to serve our respective societies fairly well may one day soon be regarded as the global mainstream.
The combination of a government neglecting its responsibilities to its own people and its obsession with liquidating its internal political foes in the battlefield rather than accommodating them within the political system is proving too much for innocent ordinary people.