Opinion: South Sudan, what a tragedy! | Opinion | DW | 08.07.2016
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Opinion: South Sudan, what a tragedy!

Five years after independence, South Sudan has become a huge tragedy. The situation is not going to improve unless the country's elite wakes up, writes DW's Daniel Pelz.

At least South Sudan's government cancelled the celebrations to mark Independence Day. It was a rare display of decency in a country ruled by a selfish political elite that is greatly concerned with power and very little with people.

The country's information minister told local media that the government would like to spend its meager resources on more meaningful things than a party. What a wise thought. Especially coming from a government that in the past has preferred to spend money on almost everything except meaningful things - maintaining an oversized army, for example, rather than investing in education or health.

There isn't much to celebrate, anyway. Five years of independence have been a rocky ride for the world's youngest nation, and for the past two years the road has steadily gone downhill.

A country on the edge

Now, South Sudan shows all the signs of a country in meltdown: Over a third of its population is at risk of starvation, the United Nations says. Millions are still displaced from their homes, too scared to return.

Portrait photo of Daniel Pelz

Daniel Pelz reports for DW from Berlin

The country's currency is losing its value at an alarming rate. And if all that wasn't enough, a new rebel group is terrorizing the people in the country's previously stable west, driving some 70,000 people from their homes.

As cruel as it sounds, all this is business as usual for South Sudan's population. The attackers are different, but the suffering remains the same. There probably isn't a people on this planet that has been denied so many of the rights every human being should enjoy: the right to live in peace, the right to have enough food, the right to education, health and so on. This goes back to the decades of bloody civil war for independence from North Sudan. Independence brought a few years of fragile peace and at least some degree of development in many parts of the country, but now everything seems to be falling into tatters again.

Stop the blame game

But South Sudan's political elite does not seem to hear the music. Wasting less time on sinister conspiracy theories over who is responsible for the country's woes (the United Nations, the international media, you name it) and spending a thought or two on how to help the people would make a difference.

There's a simple game that worked well for far too long in South Sudan: Whenever your population suffers, call on the international community for help. The United Nations and non-governmental organizations from across the globe were all too happy to dash in. But that divison of labor does not work anymore.

Elite should lead the way

South Sudan's elite must take the driver's seat and nobody else. If South Sudan is to become a country that its residents can be proud of, then the political enemies must do more than set up a government of national unity. They should put their differences aside, come up with a plan to develop their country, start spending on education and health, improve security, fight corruption and give people a chance to return home.

But unfortunately, it does not look like that's going to happen any time soon.

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