"WILL BARACK OBAMA CONTRIBUTE TO SOUTH SUDAN REFUGEES?"

 

SEPTEMBER 2017

WILL BARACK OBAMA CONTRIBUTE TO SOUTH SUDAN REFUGEES?

Paid advertising of a new biography of former President Obama, in anticipation of his upcoming memoirs, for which he reportedly received about $5 million (and rumors up to $60 million for both Barack and his wife Michelle), appeared near tragic reports of displacement of about 5 million refugees in South Sudan, a new country which Obama expediently pushed to create -- without arranging basic requirements for sustained success, nor following up on its evolving statehood.

While attending the U.N. General Debate in New York in September 2010, the U.S. President gathered a certain number of senior visiting officials directly involved in a small conference room. They included political adversaries, like an envoy of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, Uganda's President Museveni, Emirs of Gulf countries who were paying conflicting parties from Chad to Darfur, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and others -- without their entourages. From official host of the U.N. compound, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was conspicuously absent.

In an unusual manner, President Obama took over the podium to direct blunt, straightforward talk with actual "stakeholders." Some of his remarks seemed open to interpretation, while others sounded like threatening hints. "Thank you for agreeing to the independence of South Sudan" he advised cautious heads of state, who had not yet uttered a word. A puzzled President Museveni, who supported the move, spoke up -- pointing out to certain heads of state who had opposed a "secession." Did they actually agree or just diplomatically kept quiet now to oppose later? "What's happening? I want a clear answer" he said. Mr. Obama waved his hand and left.

Active bargaining followed.

President Bashir, who had been boycotted by the U.S. and hounded constantly by an International Court Prosecutor for Crimes in Darfur, relaxed a bit when the Prosecutor somehow retired to his home in Argentina and was replaced by a jurist from Gambia. In fact, Bashir attended South Sudan's independence ceremony in Juba with others, including U.S. Envoy Susan Rice. Raising the flag of the 193rd U.N. member in July 2011 was a special occasion for President Obama, while no substantive necessary preparation were actually taken to ensure minimum requirements of statehood structure. Oil was presumed to offer basic national income, despite obvious tempting battles by local armed groups (and outside powers) for it. A U.N. Mission was hurriedly voted to go there, under the somewhat indicative official name of UNMISS (U.N. Mission in South Sudan)!


South Sudanís national flag (centre) flies at UN Headquarters following its admission as the 193rd Member State. UN/E. Schneider

Lack of basic infrastructure and resources after splitting from the North, absolute poverty, tribal competition, and an open military fight between President Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, who repeatedly sign agreements then fight again, then sign another agreement while their loyalists resume fighting, with many killed. A number of U.N. peacekeepers sent to help were also killed.

As politicians adjust their calculations, ordinary needy people pay the tragic high price. By now, over 5,000,000 South Sudanese are displaced and hungry at home or across borders. President Obama -- and Susan Rice -- who have now left the White House are enjoying new lives, particularly in Obama's case with numerous books on the way, including "The Call of History," and his as-yet-unnamed first book after leaving the White House, with about $5 million reportedly received to-date from Penguin Random House, he may remember his factual history and consider sending a needed contribution to the people of South Sudan. But not through UNMISS!