South Sudan’s New Unity Gov’t Must End Bloodshed, Extreme Hunger, Homelessness or be Held Accountable

Washington, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — The transitional government set up in South Sudan as part of last year’s peace accord has missed a major internationally-set deadline thereby jeopardizing the establishment of a lasting democratic government in the new country according to experts testifying at a Capitol Hill hearing today.

“The humanitarian crisis we are trying to address is indeed among the worst in the world today,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Human Rights, who opened the hearing entitled South Sudan’s Prospects for Peace and Security. “Half of all Sudanese – 6.1 million people – are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection this year. Over half of all children aged six to 15 are not in school in South Sudan, the highest of any proportion in any country.

“It is our job to see what can be done to forestall a tragic conclusion to what was hoped would be a bright future in 2011 after the people of the then-brand new Republic of South Sudan severed ties from Khartoum,” Smith said. “We must be clear with all factions of the Government of South Sudan and the various militias still in the field. The fighting must stop—enough is enough. There must be accountability for the war crimes and atrocities that have occurred, and the transitional government must commit itself to contributing all it can to help its own people and not depend solely on the aid from the international community.” Click here to read Smith’s opening statement.

John Prendergast, Founding Director, Enough Project said that South Sudan is a country that has effectively been kidnapped and held for ransom by its leaders. “A government at its most basic level is supposed to deliver social services, provide security, and safeguard the rule of law. In South Sudan, however, it has been transformed into a predatory criminal enterprise that serves only the interests of those at the top of the power pyramid.” Click here to read Prendergast’s opening statement.

Donald Booth, the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, suggested that the situation was improving as of late but still conceded that the conditions on the ground in South Sudan are extremely fluid.

“The last 10 days, and the last 48 hours in particular, have seen a flurry of activity,” Booth said, leading to the return to Juba Tuesday of Riek Machar, who was immediately sworn in as First Vice-President, under the terms of the peace agreement signed last August. “We expect the Transitional Government of National Unity to be formally constituted within days… Progress this week came only after the most recent bouts of obstructionism by both sides.” Booth said the formation of the Transitional Government is the biggest challenge in implementing the peace agreement. Click here to read his opening testimony.

Bob Leavitt, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development, underscored the devastation faced by the ordinary citizens as they await the progress promised.

“Ordinary South Sudanese are struggling to afford food and other basic goods with a significantly devalued currency,” Leavitt said. “People continue to flee South Sudan in search of food and safe haven. The recent exodus of South Sudanese into Darfur, Sudan, shows the desperation they face. A total of about 2.5 million South Sudanese have fled their homes, including 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more than 800,000 refugees in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya. Half of all South Sudanese—meaning 6.1 million people—are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection this year. Approximately one in four South Sudanese—2.8 million people—are experiencing extreme, life-threatening hunger.” Click here to read Leavitt’s opening statement.

Matt Wells, the Program Officer at Center for Civilians in Conflict said two years of armed conflict in South Sudan have inflicted devastating harm on the civilian population.

“Government and opposition forces both often waged war through targeting civilians, frequently along ethnic lines,” Wells said. “They have killed, injured, and raped civilians; burned villages; destroyed or damaged schools and health clinics; and looted property, including cattle, food, and humanitarian supplies.” Click here to read Well’s opening statement.

Luka Biong Deng Kuol, Ph.D., Global Fellow, Peace Research Institute Oslo, pointed out that “tens of thousands of civil population are feared to have died from diseases or even hunger in isolated villages, swamps and bushes beyond the reach of aid agencies.” He said nobody knows how many people perished in South Sudan and such failure to count the dead is a scandal and a dishonour to the victims.” Click here to read Kuol’s opening statement.

Augustino Ting Mayia, Ph.D., Director of Research at The Sudd Institute attributed much of the crisis to a “lack of adequate human resources capacity, weakening government’s institutional ability to deliver direly needed basic services to the population.”

The international agreement creates a transitional government comprised of President Salva Kiir and elements of his current government, returning Vice President Machar and elements of his opposition forces and elements of civil society, and including representatives of the faith community, women and youth. Civil society had been excluded from direct involvement with the negotiations for this agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the international community is watching the extent to which civil society will be genuinely represented in the transitional government, which is supposed to lead to election in 30 months.

Meanwhile, fighting has died down in some areas of South Sudan while erupting in new areas. Militias not under the control of the government or the opposition continue to ignore the cease-fire and severely inhibit humanitarian aid to an estimated six million people in need. An estimated 2.8 million South Sudanese reportedly face imminent starvation. Aid workers have been targeted for robbery and abuse, and at least 52 relief workers have been killed since the civil war broke out in December 2013.

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