How can the West or China support South Sudan? That question has become urgent, now the country is heading for another crisis and in The Atlantic, former Africa and China correspondent Howard French looks at what China or the West can do.
Much is made in some quarters about the political advantage that accrues to China in Africa because it refuses to attach political conditions to its aid and investment. Regimes may certainly feel this way, but civil societies are much less likely to do so. In South Sudan, in fact, the major complaint is that the West failed to impose conditions on the country’s fledgling leadership when it clearly had the power to do so. These conditions might have included strong press and freedom of speech laws, a powerful independent audit agency, signature of EITI, guarantees for political opposition, a limitation on presidential mandates, etc.
Many here feel that with revenue shut off, due to what many observers have described as a rash and ill-considered move toward a showdown with the north over oil pipeline fees, South Sudan is for the once again susceptible to strong demands from its Western sponsors. But support for South Sudan lines up well with Western eagerness to see North Sudan fall–it seems unlikely that Western governmental or non-governmental would try to rein in Khartoum’s southern antagonists.
“South Sudan is going to be a showcase for the international community,” said Bol, the newspaper editor. “Why support somebody only for them to become a failed state? Why can’t the West learn from its previous mistakes? Why have they supported us and imposed no conditions?”
Howard French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.