THE failure of politicians in South Sudan to end the suffering
of their people, currently enduring a severe food crisis, was
roundly condemned this week.
"The people of South Sudan are suffering because of the
inability of South Sudan's leaders to put their people's interests
above their own," the US national security adviser, Susan Rice,
said on Tuesday, two days after the deadline for the formation of a
transitional power-sharing government was missed. The US Secretary
of State, John Kerry, described the failure as "an outrage and an
insult to the people of South Sudan. Their leaders are letting them
down again and again." The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond,
accused the government and the rebels of refusing to engage
seriously in negotiations.
Peace talks have been taking place, on and off, in Ethiopia, for
six months, against a backdrop of warnings from aid agencies that
famine is looming. A week before the Sunday deadline, Archbishop
Desmond Tutu warned that "if South Sudan's leaders fail to reach
out to each other and restore peace . . . they will for ever bear
the burden of this growing human disaster."
On Friday, the UN Security Council threatened sanctions "against
those who take action that undermines the peace, stability, and
security of South Sudan, including those who prevent the
implementation of these agreements."
Aid agencies are warning that the famine facing the country
could be the worst since the Ethiopian famine in 1984. Last month,
the UN confirmed that the food situation was "the worst in the
world". Almost four million people - a third of the population -
are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, and almost one
million children aged under five face acute malnutrition.
There are currently almost 100,000 internally displaced persons
sheltering in UN camps, which have been affected by severe
flooding. On Friday, Médecins Sans Frontières told Reuters that
conditions in the camp in Bentiu (above), where refugees
are living in knee-deep, sewage-contaminated floodwater, were "an
affront to human dignity".
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has just
returned from a visit to Christian Aid's projects in South Sudan.
In a report broadcast on Radio 4's Sunday programme last
week, he said: "The international community needs to keep up the
pressure - intensely - towards reconciliation in the country. We
have warring factions who seem to have very little concern for the
suffering of the ordinary people of this country."
New report published. A rebel attack on St Andrew's
Episcopal Church Compound, Bor, in January, during which 14 women
were killed (News, 14 February), is among the
massacres described in a new report on South Sudan from Human
Rights Watch. The report, published on Friday and based on
interviews with more than 400 survivors and witnesses, accuses both
the government and opposition forces of "extraordinary acts of
cruelty that amount to war crimes". It calls for a comprehensive
arms embargo on South Sudan, and "targeted sanctions on individuals
responsible for serious violations of international law".