In case you were wondering, Syria is not the only human rights horror festering on the Obama administration’s watch. Today, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the tragedy in South Sudan: “It’s fair to say that President Kiir was very open and very thoughtful and had thought even before this meeting about these issues, because we have talked about them on the phone in recent days, and because our special envoy and others have had conversations with him about it. So he committed very clearly his intention to do exactly that: take forceful steps in order to begin to move to end the violence and implement the cessation of hostilities agreement, and to begin to engage on a discussion with respect to a transition government.” Yes, Kerry and South Sudan’s leader spoke frankly. And so? Well, you see the leaders have a choice like in Russia or Syria:
I’ve told President Kiir that the choices that both he and the opposition face are stark and clear and that the unspeakable human costs that we have seen over the course of the last months, and which could even grow if they fail to sit down, are unacceptable to the global community. Before the promise of South Sudan’s future is soaked in more blood, President Kiir and the opposition must work immediately for a cessation of hostilities, and to move towards an understanding about future governance of the country.
I might also say that we do not put any kind of equivalency into the relationship between the sitting president, constitutionally elected and duly elected by the people of the country, and a rebel force that is engaged in use of arms in order to seek political power or to provide a transition. Already, thousands of innocent people have been killed and more than a million people have been displaced. And it is possible – as we’ve seen the warnings, because people have not been able to plant their crops – that there could be major famine in the course of the months ahead if things don’t change.
Both sides are now reportedly recruiting child soldiers and there are appalling accounts of sexual violence in the conflict. The reports of Radio Bentiu broadcasting hate speech and encouraging ethnic killings are a deep concern to all of us. The United States could not be any clearer in its condemnation of the murder of the civilians in Bentiu or in Bor and all acts of violence, including those that use ethnicity or nationality as justification are simply abhorrent and unacceptable.
If both sides do not take steps in order to reduce or end the violence, they literally put their entire country in danger. And they will completely destroy what they are fighting to inherit.
What is missing is any signal as to what the United States will do and how this situation got so bad before Kerry traveled there to highlight the carnage. Asked what the United States would do, Kerry gave this unintelligible response: “We are not going to wait. However, there will be accountability in the days ahead where it is appropriate. And the United States is doing its due diligence with respect to the power the president already has with respect to the implementation of sanctions, and I think that could come very quickly in certain quarters where there is accountability and responsibility that is clear and delineated.” What?!
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has worked on this issue for years. On Wednesday, he suggested Obama send former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to broker an agreement. And he bemoaned the lack of action to date:
While I did not support Obama’s candidacy, I was heartened by his rhetoric on Sudan during the 2008 campaign. I took further encouragement from some of the individuals who joined his foreign policy team – senior advisers with strong human rights credentials and a stated desire to see the United States lead in the prevention of crimes against humanity and other atrocities. Sadly those words have not translated into action. Samantha Power, who rose to prominence for her reporting and work on genocide prevention, now represents the U.S. at the United Nations in New York. I wish her voice was stronger within this administration on this issue. Today, I stand before you as concerned as I have ever been about the state of affairs in South Sudan and the potential for the recent violence to spiral into genocide — a genocide that could defy even the horrors of Rwanda given the oil reserves that are in play.
Maybe the president could send Wolf. At any rate, too often the word of this administration don’t match its actions whether the issue is Ukraine, Syria or Malaysia. Will South Sudan be any different?