Africa: South Sudan’s Broken Promise?
South Sudan again is making headlines around the world as the the youngest nation is facing internal challenges including a cycle of conflict and political tension.
In her testimony in Washington DC, US Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield of Bureau of African Affairs said South Sudan again is riven by conflict not with Khartoum, however, but with itself.
“South Sudan faces internal challenges is not in and of itself surprising.” – Ms. Greenfield
She cited that internal political tensions have been building for months; political space is shrinking; intercommunal tensions are long-standing; and the country’s institutions are weak.
Broader Conflict Now Grips The Country
According to Ms. Greenfield, a devastating broader conflict now grips the country.
She said it is heartbreaking for the people of South Sudan and for Americans who have made an enormous investment in the country and now the instability is threatening to destroy its future.
She added that this conflict is exacting a terrible price on the people of South Sudan, who already faced some of the most daunting development challenges in the world.
Scale Of Killing Is Not Known
Ms. Greenfield stated that the numbers of victims are grim, and grow more so by the day.
The International Crisis Group has estimated that more than 10,000 people may have been killed.
The United Nations now believes that casualties are “much higher” than its earlier December 26 estimate of over 1,000.
“The simple fact is we don’t know the scale of the killing.” – Ms. Greenfield
Now, it is estimated that over 400,000 have fled their homes including 65,000 who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
Ms. Geenfield also expressed concern with the reports of forced recruitment, sexual violence and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
She stressed that political rivalries have taken on ethnic dimensions, atrocities are being committed, and men, women, and children are caught in the crossfire.
US Addresses The Crisis In South Sudan
Ms. Greenfield said the United States has engaged in an all-out diplomatic effort to help bring an end to the fighting, with engagement by Secretary Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Special Envoy Booth, Ambassador Page and other high-ranking past and present officials with President Kiir and former Vice President Machar as well as with the heads of state and foreign ministers in neighboring countries and around the world.
The US government has:
galvanized support to end hostilities and open a broader dialogue between the two sides; tracked reports of atrocities and called for accountability; sought to secure the release of political detainees now being held in Juba; supported the critical efforts of Sudan’s neighbors to end this crisis; and taken significant steps to increase the capacity of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to carry out its mandate of civilian protection.
In addition, Ms. Greenfield pointed out that the immediate security situation remains critical particularly for the thousands of civilians forced from their homes and must be addressed.
The US government proposed and the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution nearly doubling the authorized troop ceiling for UNMISS.
Now, the US is actively encouraging member states to provide additional troops and police units to the UN mission, including through the transfer of contingents from other missions in the region where they can be spared.
In addition, the US has just committed an additional $50 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to bolster the response to pressing new needs arising from the crisis.
Civil War Budding In South Sudan
A series of clashes triggered ethnic violence in the African country. In recent weeks, hundreds have been killed and nearly 200,000 have been displaced.
Last month, the clashes erupted after President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Mr Machar denied the accusation.
Peace negotiations are underway between representatives of Kiir and Machar in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
500 Killed In Recent Violence In Bor
Last month, South Sudan’s military lost control of a key town in the country’s east, to army mutineers.
The army lost Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, to a military faction associated with former Vice President Riek Machar, who denied attempting a coup. Riek Machar claimed it is President Salva Kiir who is inciting ethnic tensions.
Jonglei state has been plagued with ethnic tension between the Nuer and Murle tribes in recent years with recurrent attacks and massacres of civilians.
Reports coming out of the area say the clashes between the country’s army and army mutineers have killed some 500 people, mainly soldiers.