As violence continues to invoke turmoil in South Sudan, peace talks between the warring ethnic groups are once again delayed and U.S. diplomats sit chewing on their nails and issuing meaningless edicts of denouncement in hopes that the newest country in the world does not become another failed state, it once again becomes clear that carving new geographical boundaries does not solve problems.
South Sudan was initially heralded by the Western hemisphere as a success after it formed its own state after its predominantly Christian South seceded from the Muslim North — grouped together into one state at the peak of British colonialism — after years of struggle and persecution, and received heavy support from the U.S., which seemed to take on somewhat of a developing-world-savior role. The U.S. heavily funded the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the guerilla-based movement that had been struggling for independence, and later became the national army of South Sudan.
But the problem is that cartographers don’t heal the wounds deeply rooted in struggle that come from generations of strife, and governments supporting movements to help doodle new geopolitical lines don’t either.
Much of the turmoil seen today had been foreshadowed.
The SPLA, which the U.S. propped, split in the 1990s between ethnic factions — the Dinka, which dominated the army, and the Nuer, which formed their own White Army.
But when the clinking glasses celebrating the success of another new state stopped and the Dinka president of South Sudan called his Nuer vice president a traitor and fired him and fighting between presidential guards broke out, spreading to become an ethnic conflict over power struggles and long-buried feelings of resentment, the global community sits on edge and waits to see what meaningless act of diplomacy this time will solve a problem they thought was solved.
Yet as thousands continue to be killed, injured and displaced, it is hopeful that diplomats and politicians have finally learned that far-removed solutions that are as simple as redrawing lines will not suffice for problems as complex as these.
Divya Kumar is a senior majoring in mass communications and economics.