“South Sudan Hangs on Rebel’s Next Move”
The Wall Street Journal, September 27-28, 2014, p.A9
“Riek Machar earned a doctorate from a British university and in 2011 became vice president in South Sudan’s first democratic election. He now commands 100,000 rebel fighters who threaten to seize some of the world’s richest oil assets. As fighting continues and peace talks sputter, his next choice of direction will go a long way toward steering the conflict to a peaceful or bloody conclusion, with potentially grave consequences for the ethnically divided nation. Since fighting erupted in December between his forces and those loyal to President Salva Kiir, more than 10,000 people have been killed and some 1.5 million uprooted. The conflict has imperiled the oil fields that are vital to the country’s economy and has created a humanitarian food disaster, leaving more than 3.5 million people on the verge of starvation, aid agencies say. Mr. Machar, who belongs to the Nuer tribe, said he has become a rebel again to restore the rule of law lost under a renegade president from the Dinka community whose troops have killed tribal supporters. … During the latest round of talks, Mr. Machar’s side rejected the mediator’s proposal about the composition of the transition government. The rebels want mediators to drop the proposal requiring that their nominees be approved by President Kiir. … While Mr. Machar champions a federal system of governance that gives more autonomy to the country’s 10 states, notably his oil-rich home state of Unity, Mr. Kiir favors a centralized system that gives greater control over the country’s resources to the executive. Mr. Machar’s governance proposal would give tribes in the country’s oil regions—notably his ethnic Nuer—more political and economic clout.”
Quickie Analysis: Machar’s request for greater autonomy seems more consistent with the lessons of history. Single-tribe, let alone single-man, rule has not been a recipe for success in post-independence Africa.