Note: This op-ed originally appeared in the Daily Beast and was written by Enough Project Founding Director, John Prendergast.
Just a day after South Sudan marked its fifth anniversary as the world's newest independent country, fierce fighting between rival factions has resumed, putting the already tenuous August 2015 peace deal in jeopardy. Hundreds are alleged to have been killed in the last few days, and thousands displaced. Command and control on both sides of the fighting appears to have broken down. Nothing seems safe as UN buildings and personnel have been attacked and U.S. diplomatic vehicles have come under fire. Helicopter gunships and tanks have been deployed along with other heavy artillery. Regional leaders are actively promoting a ceasefire, but as someone from that region once told me, "The guns talk louder than the voice."
During the last half century, one African country after another has faced momentous and extreme forks in the road in which leaders’ decisions had profound, legacy-altering consequences. In South Africa, for example, President Nelson Mandela chose an inclusive, non-punitive path out of the racist apartheid era and prevented a full-scale war and economic breakdown. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), President Mobutu Sese Seko chose a divisive, violent path when confronted with political opposition internally and instability on his eastern borders, leading to a series of wars that have generated more deaths than any conflict globally since World War II.