South Sudan should be placed under UN trusteeship to aid development of viable self-government – By Hank Cohen

Security Council Meeting: Reports of the Secretary-General on the Sudan and South Sudan

The UN Security Council Discusses Sudan and South Sudan (Dec 2013).

It is time to divest ourselves of all our romantic delusions about South Sudan.  We were all so focused on helping the South escape the repressive colonial clutches of Khartoum that we forgot about the need to prepare the South Sudanese people for self-government. Of all the African countries that came to independence since 1950, South Sudan has had the least amount of preparation.

Even the former Belgian Congo that came to independence in 1960 had significant infrastructure, a fairly good educational system operated by the Christian missionaries, and major industrial and commercial agricultural development.  Unfortunately, the Belgians thought they could continue colonial rule into the 1980s, and therefore had done nothing to prepare the human capital necessary for self-government that came about on very short notice in 1960.  As a result, the newly independent Democratic Republic of the Congo fell into a state of near anarchy shortly after independence, requiring a six-year UN peacekeeping operation that included substantial civilian governmental tutelage as well as Blue Helmets. It is the civilian side of the UN operation in the Congo that is far less known than the military aspect, but was arguably more important.

Compared to the Belgian Congo, South Sudan began with a big bunch of zeros:  infrastructure, education, private investment, institutions.  And we all saw, of course, violent competition for power within the SPLA even years before the negotiations leading to independence even began.  Riek Machar began his fight for power back in 1991 under Khartoum’s subsidies.  So, why would anyone think that an insurgent military movement had the ability to rule a newly independent country that had so many handicaps?

In the Belgian Congo, the UN Security Council imposed its tutelage on the newly independent nation within a few months of independence, and the small number of educated Congolese intellectuals accepted it without complaint.

Another historical analogy that might be instructive for South Sudan is the transition to full independence of Namibia between December 1988 and March 1990. The situation there was legally different because Namibia had been under nominal UN trusteeship after the territory was transferred from Germany to South Africa in 1918. Unfortunately, South Africa did not implement its mandate to bring the territory to independence, and instead ruled it as part of the apartheid system.  In 1987, South Africa accepted the US invitation to begin comprehensive negotiations to bring peace to southwest Africa, along with Angola and Cuba. A two-year marathon negotiation led by the then US Assistant Secretary Chester Crocker led to the New York agreement of December 1988 that provided, inter alia, for Namibian independence.

The negotiators of the December 1988 agreement made the wise decision to restore UN tutelage to Namibia for a 15-month transition period, during which UN Blue Helmets and civil servants took up temporary residence to prepare the country for full independence in March 1990.  During this transition as well, the leading nationalist political party and insurgent force, the South West African Peoples Organization (SWAPO) had the time to prepare to govern the country.  Like the Belgian Congo in 1960, Namibia thirty years later had the benefit of extensive infrastructure, private investments, education and some civil society.

It would be a shame if current cease-fire talks among the South Sudanese warlords resulted in another crude arrangement to share the oil wealth among the corrupt former fighters, with the general population seeing zero benefits.  The cease-fire should be followed by a major debate in the UN Security Council establishing a UN mandate over South Sudan similar to the one established for the Congo in 1960.

Herman J. “˜Hank’ Cohen is Former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.

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7 thoughts on “South Sudan should be placed under UN trusteeship to aid development of viable self-government – By Hank Cohen

  1. The article says this about Congo just after independence:
    “In the Belgian Congo, the UN Security Council imposed its tutelage on the newly independent nation within a few months of independence, and the small number of educated Congolese intellectuals accepted it without complaint.”
    The author should continue with the history lesson. What did the UN do when the democratically elected leader of the Congo was ousted then assassinated by Belgium and the USA?

    Mr. Hank Cohen you really should keep such advice to yourself. The government of S. Sudan and its neighbors should do the exact oppossite of what you recommend. Machar should be given an ultimatum to bring an end to his uprising. If he does not cooperate Kenya, Uganda, and other regional players should join forces and do to him the same thing that was done to M23 in the Congo.

    That would make much more sense.

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  3. Fragility in South Sudan.
    This social political public violent ‘roiling’ in South Sudan illustrates in a manner most manifest, the fundamental ordinal fragility in post conflict ‘nation building’. ‘Nation Building’ ought/must be considered as a social public policy prescriptive process measured in multi-generational decades. The majority of post conflict civil social political organizations find that public administrative institution stability is most illusive. Unfortunately, institutional fragility can degenerate into the civil breakdown currently existing in South Sudan. There exists not one ready facile constructive response as to what went wrong—– save that the majority of citizens in this new country now find themselves as ‘social fragments’ forced back to now existing to live. This ‘social fragmentary’ element of living will not enhance ‘post roiling civil social cohesion’. Do we in the West have an ontological obligatory responsibility to assist?—if so; what form ought civil assistance to assume presuming that facile ‘band aid’ bromides will not suffice, as this attempted alleged coup represents an ordinal break down in civil public policy order. My suggestion would be for the African Union to intervene only to trench social stability as long term governance stability trenching will require as in all post conflict social order long term generational realignment in political public policy discourse. Sensitivity grounded in ‘real politick’ ought to be a ‘real’ consideration when engaging in dialogue amongst the various political and civil actors and stakeholders. This will require long term civil social institution trenching. South Sudanese Local Mores and Societal Norms must be valued.

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  5. I am sorry but this is offensive and racist claptrap. The subtext is that African countries are like Children and that they must be raised like children by the all-knowing white man who knows better. Notice the examples this guy gives Congo, Namibia etc. Off-course S.Sudan is a mess, mistakes were made. Solutions must be found but please do not insult Africans. Why not UN trusteeship for anywhere else including East Timor? The answer is that Africans can not be trusted to chart their destiny. An all knowing outsider must impose solutions on them.

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  7. “South Sudan should be placed under UN trusteeship to aid development of viable self-government – By Hank Cohen ” This is pure nonsense.
    The UN driven social engineering is threatens by Judeo-Christian functioning family structure which comprises of the father, wife and children, each paying proper role in the their God given responsibilities. UN global agenda does not like free people mining their own business in their own land. So they want to replace it with their agenda. UN rejects the Biblical family, patronizes the church leaders, opposes marriage and procreation, promotes women and children rights, encourages irresponsible sexual activities among students outside marriage, they promote abortion, and celebrates homosexuality. They promote false sense of security, independence and protection for women in education and money and politics. This worldview has created UN entrenchment with their schemes in our country . It has left spiritual vacuum in our government’s leadership to stand for principle based on our values. President Kiir has not strong Christian Pastoral advisors and teachers within his counsels of advisors to guide him in shaping the spiritual wellbeing of this new nation . UN driven agenda can’t accommodate the Biblical world view in our government.
    The rift between President Kiir and Former Vice President Riak Marcher is primarily driven by UN Pressure for these founding fathers of our nation to implement the UN global Millennium Agenda due to expire in 2015. President Kiir is seen as too strong and too conservative, in the process of implementing the UN millennium, agenda. Where as they see Dr. Marcher as someone who can implement their agenda quickly. So if it will take them to exploit the tribal differences between these two men and their people to bring down the government, so be it and that is what we are seeing now. Our government ‘s hand has been tied. It has no money to govern itself and protect and provide for her people. Instead it has been used by the UN to implement their Social agenda.

    On the other hand, this crisis has cause a major spiritual implication for the people of South Sudan living in big cities such as Juba. Since people have returned from exile, most had gone to making their homes in Juba as oppose to returning to their villages just as immigrants flock to the cities in our country. Juba is the most congested city in the South Sudan. Without proper sewage system and water, sanitation is a big problem in Juba. South Sudanese who have returned from exile, have forgotten who has delivered us from our oppressor, the Islamic regime to the north. They have forgotten God in the process of trying to forge a living in the country driven by materialism and political correctness. Juba has become corrupt, ugly, and has become a breeding ground for crimes, homelessness, prostitution and corruption. The government is trying to curb the level of crimes and corruption by putting more policemen on the streets of Juba and building more prisons to hold criminals. But this not helpful and it is just like putting the bandage on a bleeding wound without addressing the root causes facing the nation. As a result, the government is spending money they don’t have on unsustainable initiative to restructure the country. As an example of the wayward plans of man, the UN has declared prostitution in Juba as a matter of human rights and those who are engaged in this lifestyle are given professions as sex workers. This is certainly an abomination and defilement before God. The Church of South Sudan urged the UN and the Government to reconsider their position because this is not the basis of our freedom. But they did not listen. So God cannot be mocked. He, in His providence, reveals the foolishness of men and confounds their plan and had the people flushed out of Juba under present circumstances beyond their control to manifest His own glory.

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