South Sudan: Kiir Needs to Tread Cautiously
After more than two decades of a bruising battle with its neighbour Sudan, South Sudan, Africa’s newly independent state should tread cautiously to avoid a civil war which is now looming large following power struggles within the ruling SPLM. The country cannot afford to go to war when it still has unfinished business with Sudan, including the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei.
Yet, by firing Riek Machar, his former Vice-President and comrade in struggle during its fight for liberation from the oppressive Khartoum regime, as well as a host of Cabinet ministers, Kiir has sown seeds of discord in a nascent country where militias still thrive and illegal arms are in the hands of a number of civilians.
Any outbreak of civil war would not only be catastrophic to South Sudan but to the entire East and Horn of Africa which has enjoyed relative peace since the Kenya Defence Forces made incursions into Somalia, driving away the Al-Shabab rag tag militia. A break out of war is likely to pose new challenges to Kenya as more refugees are likely to flock to the country that is already home to thousands of refugees from the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region.
The onus is on the African Union to intervene and encourage President Kiir and his adversaries to embrace dialogue to avert bloodshed and other geopolitical repercussions that could hinder the region’s growth and development.