June 29, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar have reacted to the ranking of the country as the world’s “most fragile” state, saying they were not surprised by the “unfortunate” outcome.
The report was released last week by the Fund for Peace, a Washington-based organisation that compiles the annual list based on the performance of countries around the world.
South Sudan topped the list of fragile states, ending Somalia’s six-year rein at the top of the index, with fractious leadership, mass killings and ethnic violence cited as some of the factors contributing to the ranking.
The index is based on 12 key social, economic and political indicators, including demographic pressures, poverty and economic decline, human rights and political impasse.
The rebel faction said the indicators for South Sudan becoming a “failed state” were clearly “written on the wall”.
Deputy parliamentary speaker Mark Nyipuoc Obang has criticised the international organization’s ranking of South Sudan at the top of the list.
Obang, who was the first government official to respond to the assessment, argued that his country, which split from Sudan in July 2011, was still a young nation, likening it to a child, and should not be compared to other more established nations.
“You cannot use social indicators from the countries which have been independent for more than 50 years with a country which is just two years old,” he told Sudan Tribune.
“It’s just like a two-year-old child, which cannot be expected to do things adults do. We are just starting from scratch … These countries that are mentioned in the reports have industries which support the economy of the country. They also have other sources of revenues,” Obang said.
However, Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said the leadership of the rebel movement was not surprised by the outcome of the assessment.
“Even if we were to take that line of argument which likens South Sudan to a two or three-year-old child, we would also have expected the child to grow like a normal, healthy child. The so-called child should have crawled fast, walked and even run by year three, 2014. These are the assuring positive indicators of a healthy growth into adolescence and adulthood,” Dak told Sudan Tribune when contacted on Sunday.
“Unfortunately the reverse has happened as the child is paralysing, a clear indicator that it is not a healthy child. This is a grave concern to the people of South Sudan and to the sympathising world at large. They ask the question, ’what is wrong with this child?’ And this brings us to the six points our chairman, Dr Riek Machar, raised in the past when he was the vice-president,” Dak added.
Dak said his boss was alarmed by growing tribalism, corruption, insecurity, economic decline, poor international relations and loss of vision, saying the direction taken by the ruling SPLM party had “malnourished the child, preventing it from normal, healthy growth”.
“Dr Riek Machar and his colleagues raised these obvious factors which were polluting the environment, but the reaction by Salva Kiir was to violently kick him out [of the SPLM],” he said, referring to Machar’s sacking last July.
He argued that it was an unacceptable excuse to compare the country was a child, saying the leadership should have managed the country’s affairs as adults.
He said the South Sudanese cabinet had adequate experience even before the country’s independence in 2011 and comprised of six PhD holders.
“They knew very well how to nourish a child in order to make it grow healthier to adulthood, but maybe some chose not to do it,” he said.
He said the former Government of Southern Sudan should have better prepared the country during the six-year interim period, saying it had failed to take advantage of South Sudan’s vast oil resources.
South Sudan was plunged into crisis in mid-December last year amid escalating tensions within the ruling party over the future direction of the country and its leadership.
Ongoing peace talks between the two warring parties, which are being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, have so far failed to reach a lasting political settlement to resolve the crisis.