We have our own human cost to instability

South Sudan slipping into a civil war isn’t exactly surprising.

All of the ingredients were there from the country’s inception. It wasn’t going to take much of a spark to lead to a dangerous explosion.

In 2011, the Sudan faced an election to allow the oil rich area filled with mostly people who follow Christian and tribal religions to separate from the rest of Sudan, a desert populated by mostly Muslim inhabitants.

The vote passed and the country was torn in two. During that election, I had to fly through the country on my way to our first visit with Dawit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

We flew through Amsterdam and had a one hour stop in Khartoum, Sudan to refuel and exchange some passengers.

My hour on the tarmac in Khartoum was one of the longest of my life.

The country was in the middle of an election that would tear it in two. I knew that only fate could prevent us from being included in a story about “61 Americans were on the plane that…”

Fortunately, nothing happened. Well, nothing but hundreds of huge mosquitos boarding the plane whose doors were left open while fuel was added and passengers disembarked.

I’m almost sure the bug spray the flight attendant sprayed all over the cabin and its passengers was safe.

Now three years later, bodies are strewn in the streets of more than 20 South Sudanese cities and mass graves are being discovered as tribal factions make their coup attempts against the recently established government.

Kenya’s President and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia have visited the capital to try to help the new country with whom they each share a border restore peace. Ethiopia is still negotiating terms of peace with its neighbor to the north – Eritrea – as well.

Africa features some of the fastest growing economies in the world as the Chinese invest millions in infrastructure and companies learn to take better advantage of natural resources on the vast continent.

But these tribal conflicts that are often older than time can derail that growth more quickly than any other factor.

Instability breeds fear and fear prevents growth.

But why should you care? You’re an American and nothing like this could ever happen here.

You might need a better mirror. Our “tribes” aren’t the same as those that still exist across the African continent, but our tribes are very real and our divisiveness will hold us back in very real ways.

Our tribal boundaries have more to do with philosophy and religion than generations of warring factions. But look what our government shutdowns and inability to govern efficiently and effectively affect our prospects for success in a very real way.

We may not have mass graves and civil war. But we have our own human cost to instability.

We sit back and look at these African countries who still go to war over tribal disagreements that predate national boundaries and we wonder why they can’t operate in a civil way that doesn’t lead to civil war.

All the while we tear our economy apart from the inside out.

We should be part of helping South Sudan become a stable government. That would mean a chance at prosperity that many will lose if these skirmishes continue.

But we also need to clean our own house and stop letting factional politics in this country cost our people that same opportunity.

Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com