Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing on the urgent crisis unfolding in South Sudan. The U.S. has played a crucial role in supporting past peace efforts in Sudan and South Sudan over the past couple decades, and should continue that tradition now. There are a number of specific things the U.S. can do to make a real difference in supporting peace right now in South Sudan that I outline in my testimony.
The four main things that the U.S. can do to help that I outline in the testimony are the following:
1. Expand the peace process: The U.S. can play a major role in helping to ensure that the current peace process unfolding in Addis does not repeat the mistakes of past mediation efforts in Sudan and South Sudan. This will require a team of diplomats led by our current Special Envoy but supplemented by issue and process experts who can help work all of the layers of peace-making: the immediate cessation of hostilities and its monitoring, the national dialogue and governance reform processes, the constitution process, the inter-communal reconciliation efforts, and the support for army reform and DDR. Their work should be backed by continuing high level engagement by key U.S. officials, including President Obama, National Security Adviser Rice, Secretary Kerry, and Ambassador Power, all of whom have already made important contributions to preventing further conflagration. Development assistance should support grassroots peace initiatives. Already, South Sudanese have established a decentralized think tank called Fresh Start South Sudanto discuss governance, peace building, social services and future prosperity. Others are engaged in campaigns that emphasize alternatives to violence, including "I Choose Peace"and "My Tribe Is South Sudan." These initiatives deserve greater attention and our logistical and financial support as well.
2. Reinvent the Troika: The Troika (UK, Norway and the U.S.) played a crucial role in supporting the mediation process leading up to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and its implementation. The Troika countries could play an even more important role in supporting the new peace effort in South Sudan if it expanded its membership by one: China. Bringing China into the tent would increase the Troika's influence on the process and the parties. Engaging India in this regard would also be potentially productive. A high-level White House effort should be undertaken with Beijing to find common ground on what our two countries can support together in South Sudan (and Sudan as well), and then integrate those understandings into a revived Troika, or Quartet.
3. Collect and punish evidence of atrocities: The U.S. should begin collecting evidence of human rights crimes and instances where humanitarian aid workers are prevented from doing their work. The African Union has already expressed a willingness to impose targeted sanctions on any party implicated in "inciting people to violence, including along ethnic lines, continuing hostilities, undermining the envisaged inclusive dialogue, hindering humanitarian operations, undermining the protection mandate of UMISS and carry out acts of violence against civilians and unarmed combatants." The U.S. should follow suit, and work within the UN Security Council to begin consultations around passing a resolution establishing a targeted sanctions regime, as conceptualized by the African Union. Drawing on the Syrian example, they should also push actively for the creation of an Independent International Commission of Inquiry into crimes committed by all factions and combatants. While both the South Sudanese government and the UN peacekeeping mission have already begun these documentation efforts, an independent commission will allow findings to be depoliticized. Further, the U.S. should support the establishment of a mixed court, drawing on both South Sudanese and international law, to ensure fair trials and prosecutions.
4. Negotiate humanitarian access: The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is dire, and it has a direct impact on neighboring areas inside Sudan as well, particularly in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions. Negotiating an access framework, notwithstanding zones of control, is essential and must proceed along a parallel track, with potential U.S. leadership. It would be a mistake to connect humanitarian access negotiations to the broader political mediation. All South Sudanese deserve consistent and unimpeded humanitarian assistance, regardless of if they live in areas held by rebel or government forces. Refugees from Sudan living in camps along the border, especially in Yida and Maban, deserve special attention. Following the evacuation of international staff and the UN mission, these concentrations of civilians near the Sudan/South Sudan are particularly vulnerable. They are trapped between two active conflict zones, have nowhere to run, and their supplies are nearly exhausted.
I believe that the U.S. and broader international community can finally learn the lessons from past failed peace efforts, and that a new process can evolve in Addis Ababa that takes into account the structural and substantive deficits of previous initiatives. And I believe that the U.S. can play a crucial role in helping to construct a more effective process, and then help build the international leverage necessary to see it through to successful completion.