What Can the International Community do in South Sudan?
By admin September 28, 2017

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The civil war in South Sudan has become one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent years. The conflict, which has been largely drowned out in Western media by the Syrian War, has killed 300,000 people, internally displaced one million, and pushed two million refugees to several neighboring countries, with at least one million South Sudanese in Uganda alone.

Warring factions within the governing party, the Sudan People Liberation Movement, have primarily caused the violence, as the current president, Salva Kiir, accused his former vice president, Riek Machar, of an attempted coup in 2013. The conflict has expanded over the past four years, with at least six or seven rebel groups now actively fighting in the conflict – a number that is constantly changing on the highly fluid battlefield. Insecurity in South Sudan was also exacerbated in early 2017 when a famine was declared in the northern part of the country. Fortunately, an emergency global response moved the area out of a famine, but two million people are still on the verge of starvation.

Only 20 percent of the aid requested to ease the conflict has been fulfilled, which includes development projects and food. Any international support is greatly affected by violence that prevents materials and aid workers from reaching critical parts of the country. The most important goal for the global community in the short term is stopping the violence, but peace talks have continued to fail for the past four years. In 2015, the Transitional Government of National Unity was created to bring together four warring parties and reestablish Machar as the vice president. The agreement fell apart and violence has started again with no end in sight. On an international level, the United Nations, the African Union, and the International Authority on Development (IGAD) have pushed for peace talks over the past year. To increase stability and support the negotiating table, the UN passed a phased deployment of 4,000 peacekeeping troops, which now places the total troops in the country at 12,000.

As successful peace talks seem unlikely to occur, some are calling on the international community to take a tougher stance to stop the conflict. The former United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, called for harsher sanctions before the end of his term, which included an arms embargo and targeted financial restraints to individuals in the government and rebel groups. The new Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has taken a softer approach by leaning on the African Union and the IGAD to negotiate the peace. However, individual countries have followed the call for a tougher stance by passing their own sanctions. This past month, the United States passed sanctions preventing three South Sudanese officials and multiple companies from using the US financial system.

The United States alone will not be able to bring peace through targeted sanctions. In late April, the United Nations Security Council discussed passing intensive sanctions, but Russia and China vetoed the resolution with the belief that a softer, diplomatic strategy needs to be taken. With four years of failed peace talks and no future peace negotiations in sight, it is unlikely a soft approach will be successful in stopping a conflict that continues to cause monumental suffering.


Further Reading:

Russia and China Object to Sanctions Against South Sudan

South Sudan No Longer in Famine, but Situation Critical

Sudan Forms Transitional Government of National Unity

Breaking Out of the Spiral in South Sudan

African Union, UN seek political solution for South Sudan

UNHCR Global Trends

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