South Sudan: One Year After Independence
Today the Republic of South Sudan celebrates the first anniversary of its independence. After decades of bloody civil war, the country voted to become an independent nation on July 9th of last year. However, the formation of the new state was far from a panacea for the third-party enabled violence and other human rights problems. The mechanisms that fueled the bloodshed for years remain today. The oppressive Khartoum regime, armed by Russia and China, retains its hold on Sudan. Despite his indictment by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is still in power. The region is still awash in arms and the supply chain fueling the al-Bashir regime is intact. And so it is unsurprising that government-sponsored violence against civilians continues. The United States must pressure third-party enablers to stop providing the resources for the Sudanese government’s assaults on its own people. The newly formed Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), which is responsible for the prevention of and response to mass atrocities and crimes against humanity, should respond to the situation in Sudan before it becomes unmanageable. As noted in President Obama’s directive, “the APB [is] responsible for making sure that at-risk countries receive appropriate attention from policy makers.” At one year, the government of South Sudan has much work to do with regard to human rights. Moving forward, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the legislature, and other governing bodies must work to legitimize themselves by strengthening the rule of law to protect citizens and refugees from violence perpetrated from within South Sudan. Some steps they can take include overseeing the transition from the current interim constitution to a permanent one that clearly delineates rights for women, children, and members of all ethnic groups. It is perhaps Sudanese women who suffer most from the instability that pervades the region. The violence has driven thousands into refugee camps in South Sudan, where women and girls are frequently victims of sexual assault. Women who have not been displaced are also subject to gender-based violence. Domestic abuse is common within South Sudanese households, as is all too often the case in regions of prolonged conflict. In addition, women are victims of inter-ethnic turmoil in South Sudan. In Jonglei, for example, the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes constantly raid one another’s villages, destroy each other’s property, and abduct women in children in a vicious cycle of retribution. And so, on this historic anniversary, there is still much to be done to protect the most vulnerable Sudanese. President Obama and the APB have many of the tools needed to disrupt the supply chains and stop the violence. All they need to do now is to act.