December 8, 2023

The wonks who sold Washington on South Sudan

(July 11, 2012) – In the mid-1980s, a small band of policy wonks began convening for lunch in the back corner of a dimly lit Italian bistro in the U.S. capital.

After ordering beers, they would get down to business: how to win independence for southern Sudan, a war-torn place most American politicians had never heard of.

They called themselves the Council and gave each other clannish nicknames: the Emperor, the Deputy Emperor, the Spear Carrier. The unlikely fellowship included an Ethiopian refugee to America, an English-lit professor and a former Carter administration official who once sported a ponytail.

The Council is little known in Washington or in Africa itself. But its quiet cajoling over nearly three decades helped South Sudan win its independence one year ago this week.

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Info-graphic on the many U.S.-based players involved in South Sudan’s birth

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