By Gloria Palubjakova, STAND Canada Policy Researcher
July 9, 2011 should have marked South Sudan’s independence from the longest running civil war in Africa, however this accomplishment has emerged as a temporary one. In 2015, attempts towards a peace deal through threats of sanctions by the UN were ineffective. The failure of the UN Security Council to implement an arms embargo and impose sanctions on President Kiir’s governance has emboldened him and helped to sustain a war which has been unceasing since independence.
With reports of renewed conflict indicating that genocide, rape, and human rights abuses had been carried out against civilians by both President Kiir’s armed forces and the rebel groups, the brutality of the ongoing civil war has had longer-term impacts on the country, disrupting farming and economic development. This in addition to the 3.5 million people displaced, at least 5 million people requiring food assistance, 100,000 civilians facing famine and over 250,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition. Thus far, the death toll has risen to 50,000 and the UNHCR estimates the need for at least $10 million for sustaining refugees a mere duration of 3 days across several neighboring states.
Presently, South Sudan is undergoing a severe man-made famine created by the wilful negligence of its own government where people are feeding on leaves and waterlilies. These events have contributed to an influx of refugees overflowing into Sudan and Uganda. The distribution of aid has proved challenging with reports of the government impeding humanitarian aid and carrying out attacks on aid workers. Unfortunately, South Sudan’s natural resource wealth is fueling the conflict with ongoing gold and oil deals enriching the government of South Sudan and providing revenue for arms purchases.
Thus far, Canada has contributed to South Sudan by raising international awareness of the situation, providing military and financial peace keeping efforts and through operational projects with War Child, OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and Global Affairs Canada. This period highlights the atrocities of President Kiir and Canada’s leverage to pressure its allies into freezing resource deals with South Sudan, applying sanctions and implementing an arms embargo. These will limit the human rights abuses, genocide, war and famine.
Furthermore, Canada should encourage its allies to review their refugee policy towards South Sudan to help heal the wounds of genocide, rape, human rights abuse and loss. An alternative solution could be contribute aid directly to civilians fleeing the present hostile conditions in South Sudan through welcome centers for refugees in host states. By pausing direct funds from President Kiir´s government, Canada can help stop personal accumulation of wealth and thereby the purchase of ammunitions. Canada should take the lead in advocating for an effective peace process supported by the UNSC and directly overseen, monitored, and implemented by the African Union, regional forces and UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) and work with the AU and opposition parties in the distribution of aid and food to civilians. The people of South Sudan are in dire need of aid and by implementing and enforcing these policies Canada has the ability to contribute towards peace and stability in the country.
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