Today is the 5th anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. As the country is recovering from a devastating civil war and continues to suffer from rampant inflation, the government had previously announced that it would cancel independence celebrations. Instead, the two days preceding the holiday, South Sudan instead marked the occasion by having government and opposition forces exchange fire in separate incidents on Thursday and Friday. Fortunately, during the more serious incident on Friday, President Salva Kiir and his vice presidents Riek Machar and James Wani Igga were together to discuss Thursday’s incident and jointly appealed for calm. This was a stark contrast to the rhetoric following the December 2013 clashes, which I’ve long believed helped fuel the expansion of the conflict…so some progress here. Right?
As my way of commemorating South Sudan’s birthday, I present you with some helpful articles to help understand the current political/humanitarian situation there:
The Independence Day that Nobody’s Celebrating by Jason Patinkin: Good synopsis of the multi-faceted challenges facing South Sudan’s transitional government as it attempts to pull itself together after the civil war.
South Sudan: Five Years Later by Lauren Hutton: A well-thought out perspective on the aspirations the donor community had for South Sudan, with relevance to other contemporary cases of state building.
Why elections may be the only answer for South Sudan by Peter Biar Ajak: Food for thought on why the peace agreement signed in August will not be implemented under the current leadership, and on how elections may be the best way to avoid complete state failure.
South Sudan: Devastating impact of war on mental health must be addressed by Amnesty International: On the near-total absence of mental health services to address trauma suffered during years of conflict.
On my About Me page, I alluded to the possibility of writing about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following is about one aspect of the time I spent in Djibouti a few years ago:
I spend the majority of my time in DC, so clearly, it is rarely hotter than Djibouti. Regardless, the ‘Is it hotter than Djibouti’ game has been part of my summertime internal dialogue since my stint at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa a few years back. And this is especially so now that DC has entered the season where the weather is so suffocating that the simple act of breathing is kind of a privilege for us asthmatic folk.
When I was at CJTF-HOA, I lived a 15min walk from the building where I worked. On my way to work, there was a colored flag that would indicate the weather conditions at that particular hour of the day. The color of the flag would also indicate what level of physical activity one could sustain, and for how long, before adverse effects would start to kick in. See example below:
The majority of days I walked past the flag around 8am, it was already Red or Black. So you can imagine what was in store for me once I walked over to the galley at lunchtime.
DC summer isn’t that bad, eh?
Today, the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal convicted former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, who ruled from 1982 to 1990, of crimes against humanity. Habré is accused of 40,000 politically-motivated killings and the torture of approximately 200,000 people before he was overthrown by the current…president Idriss Déby, who was his former chief military advisor.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch produced a very helpful Q&A: The Case of Hissène Habré before the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal.
Another interesting read is Our Man in Africa, for context on Habré’s relationship with the United States, which sought to counter Qadhafi in Libya.
On my About Me page, I alluded to the possibility of writing about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following is a story about my attempt to bridge the gap between my previous work on conflict and my expanded portfolio, which sometimes includes health:
Guide: South Africa’s health facilities are among the best on the continent. Many people come here for medical treatment.
Lesley: Yes, I understand South Sudanese warlords come here for treatment.
Guide: (Awkward silence)
Lesley: (Makes mental note to draft better small talk points and practice with close friends. Or avoid social interactions altogether.)
Apologies for my unscheduled blogging hiatus. In addition to dissertating, I’ve been learning more about U.S.-Africa relations outside of security assistance and trying to find linkages to what I know best. Like the time I suggested that assistance to health systems should also be harmonized to address infectious disease among trans-border populations based on my knowledge of regional counterterrorism interoperability. But I digress.
People complain that I use too many acronyms. And although I am a huge supporter of efficient communications, this was more a function of working the world of security assistance. Terms like Forward Operating Base (FOB), Guidance for Employment of the Force (GEF), Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and Cooperative Security Location (CSL) were my language. And while these are still part of my lexicon, I’ve been given the opportunity to learn a whole new world of acronyms. Yay.
I was recently traveling across South Africa doing urban and rural site visits to learn more about the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). My lord, health people. I have never had to learn so many acronyms in such a short amount of time.
Let me give you a freebie – HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). But then we get to terms like Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC), which if you say the acronym really fast, makes me think it’s actually Mixed Martial Arts Circumcision – which I kind of hope isn’t a real thing. Then we also have People Living with HIV (PLHIV), Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB), Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT), Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), Men who have Sex with other Men (MSM), Female Sex Workers (FSW), Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
So now the acronyms of the security assistance world seem super easy. Thanks health people. I have finally been acronymed into submission.