Editor's Note: This blog was written by Enough Project intern Zak Mitiche.
On June 10 Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY13) hosted a briefing titled “The Ongoing Crisis in South Sudan: A Detailed Outlook on the Situation.” Panelists included Justine Fleischner, Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, Adam Koons, the Senior Vice President of Programs for Relief International, and Jana Mason, the Senior Advisor for U.S. Government Relations and External Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The event was attended by about 80 congressional staffers, interns, and NGO/civil society representatives. Congressman Rangel addressed the audience during the briefing, stating that “we have an obligation to do all we can to improve the quality of life for others and work toward peace.” He urged everyone to continue to be champions of the peace process.
Koons and Mason discussed the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the last 18 months of conflict in South Sudan, expressing deep concern for the 2 million displaced people and the heavy travel restrictions that have stifled the efforts of NGOs in the region. According to Koons, “Aid agencies are filling the role of government. It is counterproductive that we have to struggle against the government to fulfill their responsibilities.” Koons also flagged serious concerns about the increasing food insecurity as a result of the conflict; by July 2015, 40% of the population of South Sudan- 4.6 million people- will be classified as severely food insecure. Mason expanded upon the gendered nature of the conflict, citing that most of the refugees arriving in neighboring countries are women and children. Mason ended on a positive note, expressing optimism and insisting that sympathizers must continue to advocate for and support much-needed aid efforts.
Fleischner stressed that “to solve the conflict, we need to address the regional political and economic interests,” as she briefed the packed room on the relevant regional actors and their interests in South Sudan. Fleischner emphasized that continued inaction by the region and international community has reinforced a culture of impunity as the conflict on the ground has intensified. In order to bring the conflict to an end, the United States and other key international partners must take steps to ensure that regional interests and strategies are aligned with multilateral efforts to increase pressure on the warring parties.
On the day of the briefing, the Enough Project released its first report in the Political Economy of African Wars series, Neighborhood Watch: Mobilizing Regional Action for Peace in South Sudan. The report lays out the competing political and economic interests of regional states, including Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan, that have prevented regional action against the warring parties, including targeted sanctions and an arms embargo. The report argues for strong U.S. and international leadership to reduce regional tensions and help build regional political will and technical capacity for targeted sanctions enforcement against the perpetrators and enablers of the violence.
Photo credit: Office of Representative Charles Rangel.