United States Humanitarian Diplomacy in South Sudan
This essay studies the use of humanitarian aid, especially food aid, as a political tool and how it is manipulated by external actors. The essay shows how food aid is used as a substitute to political attitude towards countries struggling with famine. The author focuses on the example of United States's humanitarian aid policy in South Sudan to provide evidence to support her argument. She argues that Sudanese government and the U.S are not getting well in the international scene but aid policy of the U.S, which is the major relief provider in South Sudan, counteracts Sudanese government's policy of starving the South to death by preventing food aid reaching South. What is important here is that, Autesserre argues, the U.S administration was providing assisstance to the rebel groups (e.g SPLA) and supporting their struggle under the cover of humanitarianism.
The author notes that the Western societies did not question the U.S and western aid because the situation was matching the Africa perception in the west: Hungry continent needs help from the west.
The author argues that food aid has played an important role in U.S foreign policy towards Sudan since the early 1990s and humanitarian aid was one of the main channels of the U.S's Sudan policy. the U.S policy was the containment of Khartoum government and pursuit of the civil war and supporting the rebels, but not too open and not enough to enable them to win.
The essay begins with a brief overview of the American policy towards Sudan in the 1990s. Brownback amendment to the fiscal year 2000 authorizes the administration to provide food aid directly to the SPLA. In 2001, Sudan Peace Act was introduced in the U.S Senate and aims at providing non-lethal aid to the rebels until the Sudanese government accepts peace agreement. But neither Clinton no the Bush Jr. used their legal authority to directly help the rebels in South Sudan.
According to the author, economic, strategic and diplomatic interests restrain the U.S in its opposition to Khartoum. Because Sudan is the most important producer of gum Arabic, the U.S industry is heavily dependent on this material. Moreover, she says that although no U.S company is directly involved in Sudan's oil industry, several American firms have stakes in Sudan's oil industry. All these happen while the U.S congress passed economic sanctions against Sudan and these sanctions were in effect.
Author argues that the position of the U.S in Sudanese civil war is not clear. Although humanitarian aid is provided to rebel groups, economic sanctions targeting the central government in Khartoum are not enforced well. This again shows that the U.S helps rebels not enough to enable them to win. Autesserre quotes from an article from Tufts University saying that the U.S appears to be fomenting the war instead of paving the way to peace.
Probably one of the main points of the article is that humanitarian aid is channeled to the South Sudanese rebels through Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). This is a UN-led relief operation in Sudan and constructed as perfectly neutral and totally humanitarian. Yet, U.S use of OLS for channeling its food aid to the rebels makes existence of OLS questionable. Author gives few more examples of how NGOs founded as neutral are used by U.S as a foreign policy tool.
Autesserre concludes the essay by discussing the ways by which both SPLA and Khartoum administration use incoming humanitarian aid to sustain their armed groups by diverting and taxation. In the end, she questions the NGOs that identify themselves neutral, yet used as political tools of states. Her answer is twofold: She believes that "a minority of aid agencies understand that they are manipulated, but they are often prevented from taking the appropriate action. Others, the majority, do not realize how their actions could feed into the conflict".
The essay ends with policy recommendation for the U.S admnistration for its Sudan policy and how it should handle the civil war.