This op-ed, by board member John Prendergast, originally appeared in TIME.
The world’s newest country, South Sudan, finds itself mired in the complicated fog of war that at its worst could combine the genocidal ethnic targeting of 1994 Rwanda with the warlordism of 1990s Somalia. Tens of thousands have died and millions displaced, and armed rebellions are emerging throughout the country. Village attacks, food aid obstruction, mass rape and child soldier recruitment all are rearing their ugly heads again. Five years after independence, South Sudan is widely viewed as a failed state, as its leaders built no functioning governing institutions, stole vast oil revenues, and undermined all efforts at peace.
Historically competing South Sudanese factions that united temporarily to win independence in 2011 had the chance to build a government for the new country from the bottom up. Instead of creating institutions that deliver services and ensure the rule of law, and ignoring systemic checks and balances, leading members of the factions united momentarily to create a parasitic system in which mass corruption and the brutal maintenance of power became the raison d’etre of governance.