Are South Sudan’s D.C. Cheerleaders Encouraging Bad Behavior?

Alan Boswell, writing in Foreign Policy, criticizes the SPLM’s powerful supporters in Washington for enabling bad behavior on the part of the world’s newest country:

The SPLM isn’t directly to blame for the dire conditions it inherited in South Sudan, but its dismal governance has stopped most progress before it even had a chance to begin. South Sudan has been run mostly autonomously — with its own budget revenue and standing military — since 2005, and the SPLM used that time to loot its way to personal riches, leaving development projects penniless. In May, South Sudan’s government acknowledged that South Sudanese officials had “stolen” $4 billion of missing funds that were supposed to go to developing the war-torn state — the equivalent of roughly two entire years of official revenue. Worse, this money was looted directly under the noses of the international community, which agreed to supervise the peace process and even provided consultants to do South Sudan’s own bookkeeping. […]

Amid a sea of foreign-policy realism, Sudan has survived as a foreign-policy issue grounded not in national security interests, but moral idealism. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, Sudan became a rallying cry for religious activists and human rights proponents enraged by the Sudanese government’s atrocities. But the activists made a critical mistake: They seemed to think the SPLM rebels represented a virtuous mirror image of Khartoum’s evils. […]

Two of President Bill Clinton’s Africa hands, John Prendergast and Gayle Smith, who co-founded the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, have arguably been the most effective of the SPLM’s friends in Washington. By branding the organization as anti-genocide, the Enough Project often gets a free pass from the mainstream media, which frequently cites its version of events in Sudan as objective independent analysis. But the morally charged and culturally hip do-goodism helps disguise a clear political agenda: Even while it acknowledges South Sudan’s poor record on human rights and “transparency,” Enough’s policy papers are filled with calls for punitive measures toward Khartoum and greater engagement with Juba. Last year, Prendergast and Enough publicly advocated for arming South Sudan with air defense weapons. When Enough advertised for a job opening of “Sudan policy analyst” last year, they hired one of the SPLM’s legal advisors for the position.

For the rest, including a discussion of Clooney’s surveillance satellite system, and Gérard Prunier calling the GOSS “a government of idiots” that is “rotten to the core,” head on over to FP.

Amanda Taub

One Comment

  1. Nice post. The Save Darfur moral jingoism of the last decade seems to have migrated south. Now, people who made a living ridiculing the dangerous us/them, black/white oversimplicity of Bush era politics repeat this same error, equating a victim of Bashir with goodness.

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