Earlier today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations convened to hear testimony from panel experts and discuss the role of the United States in the, “Situation in South Sudan.” Panel experts included the Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, the Honorable Nancy Lindborg, the Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, the Honorable Princeton Lyman, former Special Envoy for Sudan, Mr. John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, and the Honorable Kate Almquist Knopf, Adjunct Faculty at the National Defense University.
As violence persists and humanitarian needs multiply, panelists outlined a broad range of challenges of the situation in South Sudan, including immediate achievement of a ceasefire agreement, capacity of the UNMISS peacekeeping force to provide civilian protection, humanitarian access to conflict regions and preparation before the rainy season, and documentation and accountability for human rights abuses.
Senator Menendez (D-NJ) presided over the hearing and led the discussion between Senators and panel experts concerning the U.S. role in helping to resolve these issues:
- Facilitate an end to hostilities and the release of political detainees through the continued involvement of high-level diplomacy and increased pressure on President Kiir and the rebel delegation for peace;
- Expand the peace process to become more inclusive with the involvement of the political detainees, civil society, and religious leaders, as well as address the longer-term political root causes of the conflict and future state structure;
- Support the capacities of UNMISS, particularly in regards to civilian protection, with the expansion of troop size and providing logistical capacities;
- Collect evidence of crimes and prosecute those responsible;
- Meet critical humanitarian needs through increased logistical support and the negotiation of full access in South Sudan.
In his testimony, Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast stressed:
"The U.S. can play a major role in helping ensure that the current process that is unfolding doesn't repeat the mistakes of the past mediation efforts in Sudan and South Sudan […] Congress can be helpful in ensuring [that] resources are available for diplomatic efforts, for building a team that can undertake protracted negotiation [in Sudan and South Sudan]."