The violence occurring in South Sudan is an enormous setback, not only for the hopes of that young nation, but for Africa as a whole. The images of tribal battles, the killing of civilians and power hungry leaders willing to destroy rather than accept imperfect systems, all for the sake of their own self-aggrandizement, simply reinforce the negative images of Africa, images that have increasingly become part of the past.
The violence should anger everyone in Africa. The Day of the Strongman does not go easily into the night apparently, and because of that Africa grieves in a season that should be full of joy. The people of South Sudan deserve far better than to see hopes dashed by power-hungry leaders who manipulate tribal loyalties due to their own thirst for the riches of leadership.
By most accounts, and by my personal experience, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit is a decent sort, trying to pull together a country whose tribes represent a patchwork of ethnic differences, beliefs and desires. This is not an easy task anywhere. He is, like all leaders and all men, filled with imperfections, shortcomings mixed with a desire to build a country. It is never easy to succeed in the best of circumstances. It is nearly impossible when members of your own government prefer your demise over the building of a nation. One simply look no further than Washington to see this.
When most members of the government have been fighting one or more wars for the past thirty years it is hard to make the transition to solving differences peacefully. Cultures are difficult to change.
But change they must if South Sudan is to exist as a nation and the East Africa community is to achieve its goals of development. We need to realize that there is far more at stake than only stability in South Sudan. Solving the conflict quickly is important to regional stability in the Sahel as well as in East Africa. The African Union, with its headquarters in close proximity of South Sudan, no doubt realizes the importance of an Africa united and committed to ending the violence and building society.
Let us all hope that the season brings with it a new peace to all men in South Sudan and beyond.