“Let us not treat the leaders of South Sudan as though they are responsible and credible interlocutors, but engage them as the cynical actors that they, unfortunately, have shown themselves to be – too often putting their short-sighted personal interests over the welfare of millions of their own people who are suffering… Let us stop acting as if the principle of sovereignty, as critical as it is to the functioning of the international order, as if that principle gives the South Sudanese Government – or any government – license to commit mass atrocities against its own people, or to fuel a humanitarian crisis that has left millions of lives hanging in the balance.”
Ambassador Power’s statement comes at a critical time as the situation in South Sudan continues to worsen. The U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, warned recently of the strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines and the potential for genocide in South Sudan. In the Security Council meeting on November 17, Dieng noted that genocide is a “process” and added:
“It does not happen overnight. And because it is a process and one that takes time to prepare, it can be prevented. Action can and must be taken now to address some of the factors that could provide fertile ground for genocide.”
In her remarks, Ambassador Power also noted:
“those who […] hack innocent civilians to death, who burn down their homes, who rape women, who conscript men and young boys to fight, threaten journalists and human rights defenders – enjoy near total impunity. The same goes for those who incite others to carry out such hateful acts. The message that the government sends by not holding them accountable is crystal clear – keep at it. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
The resolution will be a critical first step in holding the perpetrators accountable. The Enough Project’s Founding Director John Prendergast said:
“Every genocide early warning system is flashing red in South Sudan today. All of the classic elements are present for mass atrocities to unfold, and when atrocities are targeted at specific communities on the basis of their identity, that is genocide. The UN Security Council has the tools to bring pressure to bear on those that would consider using mass atrocities to maintain or gain power. In the 21st century, we need to draw a line in the sand and say that genocidal action will not be allowed to occur without a significant consequence."
A report published in September by the Enough Project’s initiative, The Sentry, provided evidence of high-level corruption linked to individuals named in U.N. Security Council reporting for their responsibility for conflict and atrocities.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013, an unknown number of people have been killed in violence that has included extreme cruelty and sexual violence. More than 2.8 million South Sudanese people have been displaced. The outgoing head of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, Ellen Margrethe Løj, has reported that an estimated 4.8 million people are severely food insecure, with farmers in many parts of South Sudan likely to miss the upcoming planting season because of the violence.