Addressing South Sudan’s Crisis: The United States and the international community must stop failing the people of South Sudan.
By Adotei Akwei, Africa Advocacy Director
In the next few weeks US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley will visit one of Africa’s most rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crises and she will have the opportunity to bring to bear both the authority the UN Security Council and hopefully the diplomatic weight of the United States. Ambassador Haley must convince the parties to the conflict to cease hostilities, end violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and provide humanitarian actors with unrestricted access to the country’s internally displaced persons. She must also reorient, reform and revitalize a UN peacekeeping mission that while flawed in many aspects is saving thousands of lives and is desperately needed.
In a world seemingly beset by crises South Sudan is particularly painful. Just 7 years after gaining independence from Sudan following a bloody 30-year conflict, South Sudan is mired in what started out as a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar but which has evolved in civil war marked by ethnically-targeted violations and abuses, deliberate killings, sexual violence, the use of food as a weapon of war, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances. The conflict has created over 2 million refugees and 4 million internally displaced persons, all of whom now need assistance.
The Unites States played a critical role in formally bringing an end to the Sudanese civil war which then led to South Sudan’s independence and the US is still seen as the essential interlocutor to resolving the current crisis. The United Nations has a 12,000 person peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) which is tasked with patrolling a country the size of France that has under 300 km (185 miles) of paved roads. While both the United States and the UN have provided critical assistance, and have saved lives tens of thousands of lives, the bleak truth is that it has just not been enough and unless more robust action is taken South Sudan’s future looks even more dire.
Robust action includes:
· Put pressure on the parties to the conflict to cease violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including strongly denouncing crimes of sexual violence and insisting on accountability for the perpetrators in fair trials before civilian courts.
· Pressing both government and opposition forces to cease all violations against humanitarian personnel and assets and remove other obstructions to humanitarian assistance and ensure immediate and unhindered access by UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations to all areas of South Sudan allow the provision of assistance to civilians affected by conflict.
· Supporting the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS), the Commission on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH), and the Compensation and Reparations Authority and Fund (CRA and CRF).
· Pressing UNMISS to take all possible additional measures to protection civilians, particularly those who have sought refuge in UNMISS Protection of Civilian sites and to fulfil their mandate to monitor and investigate human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including all forms of sexual violence.
· Support the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in taking all possible additional measures to ensure effective protection of civilians, particularly those who have sought refuge in UNMISS Protection of Civilian (POC) sites — expanding areas of patrols and providing accompaniment to individuals needing to leave the sites for essential purposes, such as to go to the market or to collect firewood.
· Ensure that UNMISS increases efforts to realize their mandate to monitor and investigate human rights, including verifying and reporting publicly and regularly on abuses and violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including all forms of sexual violence.
· Ensure, through increased financial and technical assistance, that civilians have access to food, as well as livelihoods and income-generating activities in displacement, including in the UNMISS POC sites so that they do not have to risk sexual violence, deliberate killings, torture and disappearance.
· Supporting human rights investigators from UNMISS, OHCHR-Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and the Panel of Experts so that they have can collect, preserve and analyze testimonial and physical evidence — including resources for victim and witness protection — in a manner that will be admissible in national and international criminal justice processes.
Above all, robust action requires leadership and Ambassador Haley can show that kind of leadership by bringing the international community’s spotlight to the situation in South Sudan and making clear that the international community and the United States will not allow the suffering of the people of South Sudan to continue. The people of South Sudan survived and suffered through 30 years of conflict to gain their independence and be free of the brutal repression of the Khartoum government, they deserve better than this.