Commentary: South Sudan, a Conflict That Should Concern All

So far, about 1,000 people have been killed and nearly 100,000 have been uprooted, numbers that should alarm people around the world.

Posted: 12/26/2013 05:20 PM EST

The president of Kenya as well as Ethiopia’s prime minister traveled to the neophyte nation of South Sudan to talk with President Salva Kiir about how to bring an end to the fighting that has led to the deaths of scores of people and has spread to more than 20 cities in that central African nation.

While the matter is of pressing concern to the neighbors of South Sudan, the turmoil now confronting this two-year-old nation should be of concern to people far beyond the continent of Africa. And as the United Nations – and the United States – are now weighing in on the issue, the disorder in South Sudan is important to the global community.

For one thing, civil war is always a crippling and devastating horror that takes nations a generation or more to rebound from. In Liberia, for example, the 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 created havoc that continues to this day. Whether it’s Rwanda, Afghanistan or elsewhere, civil war is a horrific experience that shatters the very humanity of any people.  

The conflict in South Sudan is already beyond horrifying. The nation, which gained independence in 2011, has seen about 1,000 people killed and many more uprooted. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that at least 92,000 people had been displaced by the violence in South Sudan. It added “the real number of people displaced is likely to be significantly higher.”  

But it doesn’t end within the borders of the nation experiencing the tribal or ethnic conflict. It places a burden on the resources of neighboring countries, which are often the destinations of thousands of fearful people looking to escape from the potential of being injured or killed in the conflict.

In the case of South Sudan, it is further important to nations near and far from the region because of its role as a producer of oil. When the nation broke away from the stronghold of its neighbor to the north, there were international hopes that the new country would use its oil resources to close the huge gap between the rich and poor. If that is to happen, the country must first find a way of emerging from the current devastating crisis.

President Obama made it clear to congressional leaders that his administration was monitoring closely the events in South Sudan. Four American service members were attacked, he pointed out, adding that the administration “may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan.”

However, the president would do well to use his stature internationally to help prevent further mayhem in this delicate new African nation, particularly given his continued popularity in most of Africa. The diplomacy that his administration has invested in with regard to places like Iran would be the right thing to do in South Sudan, where the stakes are high in protecting current and future generations.

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(Photo: JAMES AKENA/LANDOV)

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