As six aid workers are killed and famine is declared in parts of the nation, Francesca Butler discusses the urgency of the crimes against humanity in South Sudan.
Experts warn a genocide is looming in South Sudan.
The murder of six aid workers in the country on Saturday is expected to severely delay aid deliveries. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) programme director for South Sudan Monica Blagescu said:
“Those in a position of power must step up to their responsibilities and stop such heinous incidents from happening again.”
UN experts from a special commission to South Sudan found what they described as a “warped environment,” when they undertook a 10-day investigation of the country in late November. They noted ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Famine has been declared in parts — the first to be declared in the last six years. Yasmin Sooka, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan reported that, “targeted displacement along ethnic lines is taking place through killing, abductions, rape, looting and burning of homes.”
This is the fallout from the 2013 civil war, which occurred only two years after South Sudan gained independence. In the war over 50,000 people were killed, 2.3 million were displaced, and 70% of schools were closed.
South Sudan holds over 60 different ethnic groups, the two largest being the Dinka (38.5%) and the Nuer (15.6%). The unity between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and VP Riek Manchar, a Nuer, was short-lived. The divisions were reflected in South Sudanese troops and escalated into the civil war. Since other tribes have joined the fight and the violence has escalated.
The US had been particularly encouraging of the creation of an independent South Sudan. However, following on from independence, the UN and US effectively stepped away from the country as rivalries and tensions re-emerged in independence’s aftermath. The US has proposed an arms embargo in response to the civil war, however this is unlikely to pass the UN Security Council because China and Russia will block any embargo until South Sudan’s neighbours agree on a policy.
It seems incredibly unlikely that President Trump will have the same interest in ending the bloodshed in South Sudan as Obama. There is no evidence that Trump is aware of what is happening in South Sudan.
We must not allow South Sudan to be a repeat of Rwanda in 1994 when 800,000 people were slaughtered and no powers intervened. The international community must do more.