The Tragedy of South Sudan & Why We Should Care

south sudan

The most violent element in society is ignorance.” Emma Goldman

By Kelly Loughery

Images of mutilated bodies, slaughtered livestock, desecrated villages and grieving mothers[1] have haunted me since I first read about the conflict in South Sudan. While I’ve never been to South Sudan, nor am I an expert on the conflict that has plagued that region for over fifty years, in my heart I know these images should not be rationalized, trivialized or ignored. Yet they are – everyday – by you and me both as we drift through our days, oblivious to the atrocities taking place 7,000 miles away in that war-torn nation.

South Sudan became a country in its own right in 2011 by referendum, becoming the first new African country since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Yet the euphoria from the secession quickly dissipated as the country fell into civil war when President Salva Kiir Mayardit (a member of the Dinka tribe) accused his former deputy (a Nuer tribesman) of an attempted coup. Violence between the warring tribes is escalating, leaving thousands dead and nearly 1.5 million displaced. Civilian attacks, sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers are well-documented and apparently increasing. Yet the conflict has failed to garner mainstream media attention; overshadowed by civil war in Syria, the rise (and sheer brutality) of ISIS and the Ebola outbreak.  So the war continues, away from the spotlight, as the images of violence and death only replicate and intensify.

Consider that a child born in South Sudan, assuming he survives childbirth (which with an infant mortality rate of 105[2] is far from certain), has a life expectancy of 55.[3] Likewise, only 27% of the population aged 15 years and above is literate, with the rate of male literacy nearly tripling the rate of female literacy.[4] Compare that with the United States where the infant mortality rate is 6[5], life expectancy is 79[6], adult literacy is approximately 99%[7] and over 41%[8] of 18 to 24 year olds attend university.  Success in South Sudan is survival; hope and ambition are therefore difficult – if not impossible – sentiments to cultivate.

Many Americans believe our collective ability to rationalize, trivialize and outright ignore conflict in Africa somehow boils down to race. Yet race is merely one of many ways we seek to distinguish ourselves from them to avoid facing the harsh reality of our shared humanity.  We discriminate, we erect boundaries, adopt an “us” vs. “them” mentality to justify the immense disparity in opportunity that exists merely because of the geography of where we are born. The South Sudanese ARE different from us: not less human, simply less privileged, significantly less privileged. And we can’t justify the luxury in our lives without somehow making them less deserving than us.

Many also will argue that Africa has done little to save itself or protect its own people. Perhaps this is true, yet also represents another veiled attempt to erect illusory boundaries between us and them. Like our parents before us, we perpetuate a cycle of ignorance, indifference and occasional justification. We sit with our lattes and read about horrific, unthinkable violence in Africa every Sunday. Yet we quickly and quietly dismiss the latest atrocity as a “third world problem”, resign to our helplessness, and continue our day.

South Sudan’s problems are not “African”; civil strife is not a new phenomenon, nor is it unique to Africa or this region. Likewise, we know the human toll civil war exacts on its people, the death, destruction and grief war leaves in its wake.

Until we change our perception of Africa, embrace the humanity of the South Sudanese and make an uncompromising promise to do something for these long suffering people we are part of the problem. While we may not be able to directly bring peace to South Sudan, nor ease a grieving mother’s pain, or create economic prosperity for the region, we can change our attitudes. We can choose to care, choose to pray and choose to do something good – however small – for a people….a continent…. that desperately needs our attention.

kellyKelly Loughery is an attorney for a Fortune 500 company and resides in Edgewater, Maryland with her twin boys and Italian greyhound.

There are a host of charitable organizations operating in South Sudan including Save the Children www.savethechildren.com and the International Rescue Committee www.rescue.org – consider donating today.

[1] Fabio Bucciarelli’s incredibly powerful photographs of South Sudan are available on his website: http://www.fabiobucciarelli.com/.
[2] Source, World Bank – infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births in a given year. See http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southsudan/overview
[3] Ibid.
[4] World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southsudan/overview
[5] Source, World Bank 2013. Data available at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southsudan/overview
[6] Source, World Bank 2012. Data available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states.
[7] Source, CIA World Fact Book available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html.
[8] National Center for Education Statistics, 2012

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Congress or Progress

The American people have been conned.  Congressional Republicans have fooled their constituents into believing that repealing laws like ObamaCare is progress or that continuing a budget sequester is best for the country. 

Congress is proving that it is not about Progress.  The arguments over immigration, budget sequester, debt ceiling, gun reform, Syria has divided our nation. We are sinking deeper in quicksand.  Congress is working against the people. It has conned some to believe repealing laws is progress.   The proof? Congress has made no progress in successfully lowering the unemployment rate, getting people working, educating more of our young people, or stabilizing our economy.  James Carville and the American people should be yelling as loud as they did over Syria, “It’s the Economy Stupid!”

Instead, now Democrats will use the mass shooting at the Navy Yard to bring up the gun debate and get nothing done. But it’s good politics.  Let’s not be fooled again.  Guns are dangerous. They give people a false sense of power and security.  Does Zimmerman follow Trayvon Martin if he didn’t have a gun?   

Politicians are just as dangerous as a person with a gun.  Those in Washington use their votes like bullets, recklessly voting for a budget sequester and against laws like ObamaCare that impact families and eliminate jobs.

The House of Representatives has voted unsuccessfully 40 times to defund ObamaCare that can help American families but not once on a budget?   Wouldn’t a budget deal help America step forward from the devastation incurred by reckless behavior on Wall Street, in the housing market and banking industry?  

The people bailed out Wall Street, bankers, the auto and housing industry, but who rebounded quickest? For once Congress think progress for the American people, end the budget sequester.  No more arguing over trivial issues like immigration that will strengthen our nation!  No more widening the gap between the poor and the rich. Stop claiming that some of the poor who were once middle class and lost their jobs and homes during the recession are lazy. Stop threatening to cutting them off from benefits that will hopefully keep from falling deeper into an economic abyss that you created.

Congress get out of the way. Make government again about the People, but about all the People. If not, then the Government for the People will be forced to find a way, to make it of the People again.