Editor's Note: This blog post was written by Enough Project intern Zak Mitiche.
On July 10, the Enough Project’s Akshaya Kumar, Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst, testified on “The Current Human Rights Situation in South Sudan” before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan Commission of the House of Representatives. Additional witnesses included Ambassador Susan Page, Special Advisor to the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan and Linda Etim, Deputy Assistant Administrator at the Africa Bureau of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Adotei Akwei, Managing Director of Government Relations at Amnesty International USA, and Bill O'Keefe, Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy at Catholic Relief Services
Akshaya Kumar's testimony begins just after the 2:37:30 mark.
Co-chairs of the Commission Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA-2) and Joe Pitts (R-PA-16) presided over the hearing, and were joined by Representatives Cicilline (D-RI-1), Doyle (D-PA-14), Plaskett (D-USVI), Lee (D-CA-13), and Frank (R-AZ-8).
In her testimony, Kumar stressed that:
“The U.S. government must be willing to impose punishing consequences on those most responsible for obstructing the peace, stealing from their own people, and committing atrocity crimes, even if that means targeting those it considered friends in the past.”
Kumar and others emphasized the need to impose and enforce sanctions on political elites undermining the peace process, to support “legal action to confiscate wealth acquired through corruption and other illegal activity”, and to create a hybrid court with jurisdiction over atrocity as well as economic crimes. In particular, the United States government should investigate and prepare dossiers for additional rounds of sanctions that target high level political elites and facilitators. Kumar argued for the Department of Justice to begin investigations into stolen assets from South Sudan to support efforts to recover and return assets from South Sudan. The panelists additionally stressed the imperative of the U.S. government engaging more directly with regional heads of state, stating that a lasting peace is in the region’s collective interest. In particular, President Obama should raise these issues on his trip to the region.
Both sides of the conflict – government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir as well as various rebel forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar – have perpetrated atrocity crimes that have left two million people displaced and one in ten households in Upper Nile facing famine, with signs indicating that the crisis will only worsen. Violent attacks on civilians, including children, have led to cases of rape, castration, and murder. 1.7 million students are out of school or have limited access to education. Aid workers are being targeted, with thirty killed and 150 missing since the conflict began. Panelists explained that as civilians flee from conflict areas to more secure swamp regions, accessibility for humanitarian aid agencies has diminished.
Since the calculations of the warring parties have not changed since the beginning of the conflict, despite huge investments in conventional tools by the United States and the broader international community, Kumar argued that a new approach is needed.
Witnesses noted that the strong pledge Secretary of State John Kerry made this past May to put five million dollars towards what he called, a “credible, impartial and effective justice mechanism, such as a hybrid court,” are necessary for any sustainable peace.
President Obama arrived in the region last week.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress