We are tired of news of conflict. Hotspots have flared around the world, from the Middle East, to China, to the Ukraine and South America. And yet there are more. The African continent roils in chaos, and coup after coup installs dictators on top of dictators. Decolonization has scarred the savannah. Some news has indeed trickled down to the American public, most vividly with the atrocities in Darfur and the terror group Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls in protest of Western education. And yet the worst conflicts are ignored. Sudan’s, Mali’s, Nigeria’s, South Africa’s, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s, the Central African Republic’s; I have yet to see major news or discussion of. Of the 13 ongoing genocides identified by the Genocide Watch, a human-rights group, seven are in Africa.
The newest nation in the world, South Sudan declared independence only in 2011 following a bloody civil war with Sudan’s Arab north. Born out of chaos, it remains intensely vulnerable. Foreign Policy ranks the country number one on its index of most fragile states. The New York Times reports that 1.5m have fled their homes, nearly half of the population is starving, and although official statistics are impossible to calculate, the dead number in the tens of thousands. South Sudan is in danger of ripping itself apart under the same ethnic tensions that brought about its inception in the first place.
Paradoxically, Africa is the site of most growth. While developed nations grow at rates in the single digits, like the U.S’s 2%, African growth is at an annual rate of 5%. Of the next three billion people to be born on the planet, two billion will be born in Africa. But with that growth comes volatility, some of which is manifested in the nascent South Sudan.
South Sudan faces a lot of the same problems as the other African nations in the Sahel belt of sub-Saharan Africa. A lack of infrastructure, high temperatures, non arable land, and a dearth of stable government in the wreck of decolonization have combined to exacerbate already existing tensions along ethnic and racial lines. Other countries like Chad and Burkina Faso are also suffering from famine, and Mali is in the middle of a spillover conflict from Libya that has prompted intervention by the French Foreign Legion. Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have been wracked by the recent Ebola epidemic. And some countries, like Cotê d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) are just recovering from devastating civil wars. South Sudan joins the list of listing countries. And developed Western nations would be wrong to ignore yet another country’s plight. In a time when Europe is hit by waves of economic crisis exacerbated by the rise of far-right nationalism as well as heightened threats from the Russian East, and the United States recovers from disastrous missteps in the War on Terror, this is no time to retreat. Everyone has a responsibility to help. USAID, an organization that provides food and resources to crisis spots around the world, has been operating in South Sudan for decades. Its time for the government to help out. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and non-government organizations (NGO’s) are there. But nothing has helped, and it would be wrong for the West to stand by. Like it or not, the United States and its allies are the hegemonic power of the world. It is our responsibility to respond to urgent crises because if we do not, we lose two fronts: our own political capital around the world, as well as the lives of our fellow human beings who are in a rough spot and need help. Step up. Raise awareness. And help stop the cycle of violence in an oft-forgot continent that is the cradle of world growth.