During the period December 2013 to April 2018, we estimate that 1 177 600 deaths due to any cause occurred among people living in South Sudan, and that 794 600 deaths would have occurred under counterfactual assumptions. This yields an excess death toll of 382 900.
….. The first is that the researchers use different variables as proxies for mortality: proxies such as rainfall, climate, how much food is grown, the price of food (measured as “amount in kilogrammes of white flour that an average medium goat can be exchanged for”) and the presence of disease. This is how it works: if there is low rainfall, they know that people will struggle to get water and grow crops, so deaths are likely to go up. Using data from all around the world, they can make an educated guess about how many deaths were caused by a specific deficit of rainfall.
These proxies are combined with the limited survey data available to give an overall death toll for South Sudan in the relevant period. But the war didn’t cause all those deaths. It didn’t even cause most of them. Many deaths can be attributed to old age and natural causes; others to poverty and diseases such as malaria that would have happened regardless of the conflict.
Women were raped. Children were burned to death. Some people were even forced at gunpoint to eat the flesh of their dead relatives. The horror has been meticulously documented. Still, it goes on.
Gettleman’s gratuitous tweet may have been meant as clickbait. But seen in the context of his other pieces from the region, it fits a pattern. It was a dog whistle, meant to take us back to a time when callous dehumanization of Africans was commonplace, including in the most highbrow of outlets. From the DRC, to Kenya, to Uganda, Gettleman’s writings read like the works of a careless journalist who, for whatever reason, does not think that dehumanizing the subjects of his pieces is wrong.
It’s almost as if he intentionally wants to beat Joseph Conrad in producing piles and piles of horse manure on his imagined idea of what Africa and Africans are about.
It is a shame that, in 2017, the Times continues to feed this stuff to its readers.
South Sudan today is a collapsed political marketplace. The country’s political market was structured by competitive militarized clientelism for access to oil rents. Those oil rents have almost disappeared but the structure of competition is unchanged and the price of loyalty has not reduced to a level commensurate with the available political funding. The result is that political loyalty and services are rewarded with license to plunder. This is inherently self-destructive. South Sudan’s political economy is being consumed to feed its political-military elite.
How can the collapsed political marketplace be fixed?
The short term crisis could be resolved only by one of three means:
1. Buy-in: a power-sharing deal among the contenders. This was the strategy of the CPA. It was possible in 2005 because the budget was increasing by more than 25% per year. It is not possible under current conditions of austerity.
2. Victory and repression: one contender secures military domination and uses an efficient security apparatus to enforce loyalty. This is not possible because the civil war became an ethnic war, making outright victory impossible, and the army is unreformed.
3. Skilled management of the political market: the CEO negotiates a pact with the political financiers to obtain more funds and to regulate the marketplace, providing enough leeway to stabilize the situation. This remains an option but it requires skills and coordination that have been in short supply.
The Saudis and OPEC aren’t helping with Option 1. And for the longest time I had faith in the international community’s ability to engineer and enforce Option 3. But the older I get more I think about it, the more I am convinced that autonomous recovery, i.e. Option 2 might be the best long-run solution (with important lessons from Idris Deby’s Chad noted).
Too bad there is not a single warlord in South Sudan (including President Salva Kiir) who is strong enough to become the main stationary bandit in Juba.
“The survey for the proposed new capital of South Sudan, Ramciel, is expected to be completed within the next six months, reports the official in charge of the project.
resolved to suspend any construction of new public buildings for the national government in Juba.
Juba was disqualified for a number of reasons including administrative stalemate over which level of government its jurisdiction should fall under.”
That is the official reason.
Source: Political Geography Now
I know very little about the deliberations that resulted in the move but another reason could be that Juba was too far from the new nation’s centre of (ethno) political gravity (see maps; click on image to enlarge). Relocations of capitals almost invariably have political considerations. One only hopes that the Bari community whose ancestral homeland is around Juba will not suddenly find themselves completely abandoned by the central government.
The government should ensure that Ramciel does not suddenly suck in all the money. It could prove beneficial to decouple the political and economic capitals of the country.
Source: Gulf 2000 Project
On the plus side this is a sign that the new government in Juba is willing to try out new things. A fresh start in Ramciel might not be such a bad idea.
The BBC reports that at least 100 people have been killed in clashes between the South Sudan government and soldiers loyal to a renegade rebel, George Athor, in Jonglei State.
This latest clash does not come as a surprise. Most analysts predict a high likelihood of civil war in post-independence South Sudan. Conflict will most likely come from two sources: Khartoum funding local dissident groups in order to check Juba and internal ethnic rivalry over government positions and the sharing of oil wealth.
Civil war in South Sudan may prove to be deadlier than the 2 decade war against Khartoum. Civilianization of the two decade war placed guns in the hands of most able bodied young men (In the South cattle herders tend to their animals with AK’s in hand). The prospect of Khartoum supporting secessionist movements along its border with the South is not pure fantasy.
The spotlight is on the political elite in the South. Will they hammer out a power and resource sharing deal or will despotism yet again kill the independence dreams of an African nation? I can’t stop thinking that John Garang’ de Mabior died too soon.