21 December 2013

South Sudan a Test of Resolve for the AU


Even at this point - days after the trouble in South Sudan first erupted - there is much that is still not clear. That is only to be expected. Any crisis of this magnitude invariably produces at least two rival narratives as to what is going on in the troubled country, and who is to blame for the unfolding tragedy.

There is one thing, however, which can be stated with certainty: that the African Union has to intervene in the South Sudan crisis before the violence spirals out of control.

We in Kenya are particularly well-placed to appreciate the need for outside intervention in the search for a peaceful resolution to a violent eruption of this kind.

When we had the outbreak of post-election violence in 2008, there was virtually no communication between the rival political groups. Each side claimed to have won the election, and demanded that the rival group yield to its demands. It took the intervention of the international community and the wise mediation of the 'Group of Eminent Persons' led by Kofi Annan for Kenya's political equilibrium to be restored.

South Sudan now faces a crisis which may be different in its origins and the sequence in which the tragedy is playing out. But in its essentials, it is much the same thing: the nation is deeply divided, and there are those who refuse to be ruled by the man who is currently serving as the President.

If this crisis is to be prevented from degenerating into the kind of open civil war, such as we have in Syria at the moment, there must be an immediate intervention by mediators from beyond the borders of South Sudan.

The African Union has in recent months made all kinds of global headlines in its opposition to the International Criminal Court. And we have heard the repeated declaration that "African solutions" can be found for African problems, without the need for "outsiders".

Well, South Sudan offers just the kind of crisis that the AU can use to demonstrate its revolve in this matter of "finding African solutions".

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