07 December 2010

George Clooney in Southern Sudan

A few weeks back my Facebook newsfeed filled up with photos of grinning friends standing next to George Clooney in Juba's bars. Well this is what he was up to.

Kristof is somewhat predictably a fan.
I admire Clooney (and Ann Curry of NBC, who went with him and got an hour on Dateline) for trying to raise an alarm bell in the night. Let’s hope that the alarms, and the latest burst of diplomacy and spotlight on South Sudan, are enough to avert a new war.
Tom Murphy
worries that this over-simplifies what is going on in Sudan
I'm actually going to side with Kristof on this one. Whilst I don't think that a return to war is the most likely to outcome, it is a possibility, and given the track record of the US in helping to broker the 2005 CPA I do think that US diplomacy could be important in ensuring a peaceful outcome.

I don't think that a return to war is likely because I think that ultimately both sides are going to behave rationally, by which I mean in their own self-interest. The Khartoum government has a strong interest in not losing the oil revenues from the South, but an even stronger interest in not having all oil production come to a halt completely due to a return to war. The cost to the SPLM of building a new pipeline through Kenya is basically prohibitive, and they have already indicated that they would be willing to pay hefty pipeline fees to Khartoum, even to the point of extending the current 50:50 split.

Added to the mix for Khartoum is that arrest warrant for Bashir, the desire to get sanctions lifted, and the desire to get some relief on that $30bn of debt.

There is a lot of space for a mutually profitable deal to be made, if cool heads can be made to prevail.


Unknown said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts. That is why I deferred to your experience and understanding of the region. I hope you are right!

Anonymous said...

I hope you're right, too. Sincerely. But...

a) I'm almost always disappointed every time I assume the rational actor.

b) I'm not clear on how George's and Ann's pub-hopping will or even can affect the outcome either way.

Lee said...

I would say the complete opposite - the rational actor model does a pretty good job at explaining about 90% of everything about our lives and our economies. Where have you been disappointed?

I sincerely doubt that Sudan would be receiving the attention that it is from the US government were it not for Enough.

Boredinpostconflict said...

Yeah it was a good thing George Clooney was here to brief Obama on the situation....

Ranil Dissanayake said...

Actually, I'm with you on the rational actor, Lee. Most people do pursue self-interest or at least make a pursuit of their objectives. It's just that the constraints of knowledge and the multiple options for achieving outcomes and difficult of accurately gauging probabilities and costs mean that we find it pretty difficult to predict how exactly it will work.

So I'd say it probably explains a lot of the world (as you say), but we're not so good at working out why or how it does so.

Derrill Watson said...

Ah yes, White Man to the Rescue. We'll save the Africans from themselves.

I grant completely that international diplomatic engagement has an important role to play in helping smooth the transition and providing additional guarantees of stability in the immediate aftermath. If the conflict were as inevitable as portrayed, though, it would erupt as soon as int'l attention wanders again, which it eventually will (the attention wandering, not war).

The diplomacy that is needed likely involves the US, but if we're going to 'learn the lessons' of Rwanda and DRC, it's that the diplomacy has to include the neighbors. Getting neighboring nations onboard and bringing in African leaders to work on the issues will matter more than students in t-shirts or "you" saving the world because Clooney says you can.

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