President Kiir and benefactor Gen. Museveni who gets $750 million annually plus arms from Washington. Photo: Twitter
There must be no double standard. There can’t be global outrage and demands for action spearheaded by President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley over the deaths of Syrian civilians including those reportedly killed by a chemical agent, while ignoring the victims of the on-going genocide in South Sudan.
No one is demanding missile strikes on any targets in South Sudan. In fact, the motives behind the U.S. hits on Syrian targets and their usefulness are still up for debate.
Nevertheless, the vigorous diplomatic activity at the United Nations that gained momentum when ambassador Haley held up photos of Syrian victims of the chemical attack could increase pressure to negotiate an end to that war.
On the other hand, why no outrage by Haley and other diplomats about the South Sudan carnage? There are many photographs of the victims of South Sudan’s atrocities. The New York Times and other outlets have described horrific killings including babies being split into two and the bodies being tossed into rivers by soldiers loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir.
Could it be that the U.S. sees no political capital to be derived from taking a similarly firm and visible role at the United Nations to demand for immediate action on South Sudan? Could it be because the victims are Africans? Why the indifference and lack of urgency to resolve that conflict? As of last year already 50,000 people were estimated to have died. Tens of thousands more possibly dead in the current massacres.
It can’t be that the South Sudanese war is viewed as intractable or that it’s been going on for too long. Both wars, the Syrian and South Sudanese conflicts have been going on for about six years now.
South Sudanese have died painful deaths as well, including by: attacks with internationally banned cluster bombs deployed by Uganda in 2014; hacking to death (including children); and, people having their throats slit.
No other outside country has more influence in South Sudan than the United States; not even Uganda, whose dictator of 31-years-in-power Gen. Yoweri Museveni has been supporting one side, President Kiir, in the war, has more influence. This is because Uganda gets about $750 million a year from the United States. Without U.S. financial and military support Uganda can’t afford to meddle in South Sudan’s affairs — and Kiir wouldn’t be able to carry out the massacres in his bid for absolute power-grab.
In South Sudan Uganda guarantees the survival of Kiir’s regime; just as in Syria, the Russians and Iranians ensure Bashar Assad’s reign.
The most recent round of killings in South Sudan started after Kiir ejected his vice president Riek Machar from power and tried to kill him in June, 2016. Machar and Kiir had signed a peace-deal and power-sharing accord that created a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) brokered by the African Union (AU) and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) a regional group of eight African states in August, 2015.
At the time he signed, Kiir listed 16 reservations to the agreement. The U.S., which was a guarantor of the deal said it would impose sanctions if Kiir reneged and rejected his “reservations”. Not only did Kiir renege, he abrogated the agreement when he attacked Machar in 2016. There have been no sanctions imposed on Kiir.
The 2015 peace deal itself had come about after Kiir, with the backing of Uganda’s army first tried to kill Machar in December 2013.
South Sudan has only been independent since July 9, 2011. Before that it was the southern part of Sudan and it fought to break away for decades. This was because the government, whose capital was in the north in Khartoum, wanted to impose Islamic law throughout the country and also economically-marginalized the south where African religions and Christianity are practiced.
Under the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. helped broker an end to the fighting between the south and the north in 2005. After a referendum in January, 2011, the south opted for independence.
Rebel leaders, Kiir and Machar of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) became president and vice president, respectively.
But things began to fall apart when Kiir first tried to eliminate Machar in 2013, with military support from Gen. Museveni, even reportedly using cluster bombs. There was no major outrage by the U.S. presumably because Gen. Museveni is considered a U.S. ally.
As a result of President kiir’s war-mongering more than one million South Sudanese have fled as refugees to neighboring countries and millions more have been displaced within the country.
The world can’t cynically demand for peace and global action to halt massacres in Syria while ignoring South Sudan’s plight. The United Nations must demand an immediate ceasefire with serious consequences to any side that violates it.
The TGoNU agreement must also be restored.
Finally, during South Sudan’s transition period leading to future elections both Kiir’s and Machar’s armed forces must be demobilized and all defense and security matters be handled by an international force provided by the AU and U.N., until a new ethnically-balanced and professional South Sudan army is created.