Hollywood stars like George Clooney and Don Cheadle have argued passionately for nation-building in South Sudan. Only problem: They didn't quite see the whole story, writes Daniel Howden at the Guardian. Film stars and other activists delivered "a narrative about the new country that borrowed from a simple script": After two decades of war and two million dead, the south needed to break free from "an Islamic and chauvinist north led by an indicted war criminal." And only "huge development support" was required.
But most of the fighting was actually between rival militia groups in the south, often fueled by ethnic tensions, writes Howden. And when the war ended in 2005, no effort was made to ease those tensions. So when President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, sacked his government to stop then-Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, from taking power, the two groups naturally started fighting. Now, "the only way out ... will be another round of payoffs to military commanders and a reluctant return to square one on the state-building board, accompanied by an admission of past failures."