Back in 2000, in an international NGO head quarter in Copenhagen, I asked what instantly turned out to be categorised a 'stupid question'. I remember the immidiate feeling of being less clever, less academic, less experienced.
At that point I had never been to Africa, and the closest I got to post-conflict and peace-building was the grassroot and youth work I did in ex-Yugoslavia. I asked: 'Why are we supporting SPLM/A? What do we expect to happen when soldiers turn politicians? What's the logic?'
In 2005 I went to northern Uganda to work with a civic education programme for South Sudanese refugees, preparing them to return home with some basic knowledge of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan. Occasionally I would visit Equatoria during those years, and I had my first encounters with SPLA. Like the soldiers demanding lifts for themselves or their relatives when we crossed the border at Kaya. The drunk, angry and always armed soldiers at various checkpoints. Much later, after South Sudan's independence, I met the seriously incompetent who had been granted authority to rebuild the country. I also met some seriously competent, but they were not always in charge.
In this interview at Aljazeera, Alex de Waal discusses how South Sudan, the world’s newest country, was set up to fail. It also seeks to explain the blind support given from international aid organisations and governments to SPLM/A. Somehow, it seems that the needs of those before mentioned came first. Way ahead of the Souths Sudanese population's needs.
Read and watch here.
Photo from Yei Prison in South Sudan (2007). Photo: Pernille Bærendtsen