Obama's legacy in the Sudans
In my previous post about President Obama, I listed some of his many great attributes that we are thankful for. But he wasn't a flawless President.
I mentioned his difficulty in dealing with Africa's troubles. He was so appalled by the violence that followed the Kenyan 2007-2008 elections that he refused to visit Kenya in his first Africa tour. He did not provide any meaningful help to Mali or Nigeria when extremists nearly crippled those countries. And in Egypt, he wavered over whether to praise or condemn the overthrow of Mursi, leaving America's old allies in the Egyptian military in limbo.
But nowhere in Africa did his policies hurt more than in the Sudans. I put this down to the idealism of the man than any ill intent. His commitment to democratic values and human rights seem to lead him into pursuing solutions which in the end cause more harm than good.
In South Sudan, the mistake occurred soon after fighting broke out in Juba in December 2013. America decided to pull out and run, rather than reinforcing their presence in order to stabilize the country. For a country that boasts to have midwived South Sudan, that stance would not have surprised anyone. A clear message should have been sent out, especially to the rebellion, that war was impermissible. Thousands of lives, several towns, invaluable infrastructure and billions of dollars might have been saved. Succeeding to establish a calm climate so early in the conflict, might have allowed the victims of the violence and their relatives to receive justice.
Moreover, subsequent American-led attempts to restore peace tended to increase the gulf between the government and the rebels instead of bridging it. This prolonged the war and fueled the fighting. If Obama's South Sudan policy was inadequate, his Sudan policy was very damaging. His unconcealed warmth towards the Bashir Regime - presumably owed to Bashir's willingness to betray his former international jihadi allies in return for Amerca's clemency - contrasts starkly with his total disregard for the suffering of the persecuted Sudanese opposition, especially in Darfur, Nuba Mountain, and the Blue Nile regions.
His complete silence over Abyei has given more credence to the Sudan's greedy claim of this Dinka and South Sudanese land. In laying all this blame on an American President, I am not absolving Africans from their responsibilities. Resolving conflicts in Africa lies squarely on the leaders of the affected countries. Obama, as a leader of the most powerful country on this ever shrinking planet, could only lead them down a better path, but our leaders must take the final steps alone.