Malwal: Elder Statesman Traveling Across U.S. to Build Stronger Ties
Bona Malwal is considered by many to be an elder statesman, as well as South Sudan’s version of George Washington. Various heads of state throughout the African continent and the Middle East constantly seek out his guidance and advice and he was recently in Houston to discuss the current relations between South Sudan and the United States.
Joined by political strategist Raynard Jackson, Malwal has been traveling across the U.S. seeking to build a more solid relationship between the South Sudanese government and the African American and African-immigrant communities. He believes strengthening these relationships is critical to improving relations between South Sudan and the current Obama administration.
For some time, the Obama administration has been adamant about having the United Nations impose sanctions against South Sudan, because of a long-running conflict that has severely impacted their country.
The South Sudan conflict, which began in December 2013, has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands; left an estimated 2.5 million people facing severe food shortages; and displaced nearly 2 million people.
The South Sudanese government has been extremely vocal and has warned that imposing these U.S. supported sanctions would be extremely counter-productive and would be largely viewed as an attempt by the U.S. to block any attempts to bring forth a peaceful settlement to the conflict.
The U.S. had warned that an arms embargo and other significant punitive measures were possible if the two sides in South Sudan’s conflict could not agree to a deal by March 5th.
That time has since past and the U.S. has been steadfast in their approach to the recently-liberated country.
The history of Sudan has been marked by two long and bloody civil wars and resulted in the secession of South Sudan in 2011. While both nations continue to face significant political and socio-economic challenges, South Sudan is plagued by armed rebellion and political corruption.
“We will always have admiration for America, because if it wasn’t for the previous administration under George W. Bush, we would not have attained our liberation in 2011,” said Malwal. “If the British would come to the United States and tell them that they are not happy with the way America is running its country, so they must take over control, they would never allow it. Every country has mismanagement and issues – South Sudan needs the support of the United States while we work through our issues.”
Malwal truly understands the fight for liberation, having been held a prisoner of conscience for 14 months, in 1982, under President Jaafar Mohammed Nimeiri’s military regime in Sudan.
Malwal has been one of the chief architects and proponents of the right of the people of South Sudan to self-determination, but believes that this latest effort by the U.S. is contrary to the approach the previous administration took as it relates to South Sudan.
At the start of his presidency, George W. Bush made South Sudan a centerpiece of his foreign policy and helped to broker a landmark peace accord in 2005 that ended the civil war and paved the way for South Sudan to break away and eventually claim their independence.
Malwal and others in the South Sudanese government are hopeful that the current Obama administration would remove any sanctions and work more closely with them to correct their issues. Only time will tell whether that occurs, but Malwal is not waiting. He is traveling across the U.S. seeking to connect the dots and work with individuals who are able to collectively carry that message to the Obama administration and policy makers on Capitol Hill.