Donors’ duty

January 04, 2014 - 3:53:44 am

South Sudan is surviving on foreign aid. So donors need to set terms to prevent a repetition of fighting.


As South Sudan, the world’s newest country, struggles to recover from the fatal blows it suffered after the two leading tribes drew daggers against each other, questions are being asked about the failure of international agencies and countries to foresee this trouble. Juba’s government has been mainly on international aid since its formation in 2011, and if the world, especially the US, has been putting so much of their money into a country, it’s their duty to demand results. That would mean ensuring that the country is moving in the right direction, that stability and peace are being restored, that its leaders have the nation’s interest in mind when they take decisions. The reason is that the early years of a nation are the most difficult, especially of South Sudan where tribalism is the predominant principle, and all the aid can be wasted through the slightest disturbance.

The violence of the scale South Sudan is witnessing has the potential to upend all the progress the country has made. The ethnic and political violence has killed at least 1,000 people and displaced nearly 200,000 in the past two weeks. Most of the institutions so painstakingly set up are in disarray. This means nation-building will have to start afresh. In other words, the money pumped into South Sudan has become like money spent on a badly planned business project. 

South Sudan received approximately one billion dollars of international assistance on an annual basis between 2006 and 2010 — the run-up to independence. The total aid allocations for the first year after independence totaled $1.4bn. If all this money. Reports now say that all of this money hasn’t been used on people. There was a ‘fake ministry of finance’ set up to deal with donors and advisers, and the ‘real ministry of finance’ which actually made funding allocations. This ministry was operated through backdoor dealings between South Sudanese officials, concealed from donor view. If donors had set up watchdogs to monitor the progress of the nation, the crisis that has paralysed the country could have been avoided. Donors have the right to ensure that the aid they give produce the results they want. That would involve guaranteeing peace and stability.

The current round of South Sudan violence began with a political feud between President Salva Kiir and ousted Vice-President Riek Machar, which exposed a deep and cancerous rift between the Dinka and the Nuer, the country’s two largest ethnic groups. The crisis is now reaching some sort of endgame with representatives of both factions meeting in neighboring Ethiopia to find a solution under international pressure. The warring tribes are likely to reach a deal, but there is no guarantee that peace will prevail.  So there is still time for donors to set terms before they part with cash•