U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Issues, Anne C. Richard spoke to the press yesterday and expressed the United State’s disappointment that the government of South Sudan and the opposition have failed to reach a final peace agreement during last week’s negotiations and IGAD summit.
She said “The warring parties bear the full responsibility for this crisis and the suffering of their fellow South Sudanese. We call on all parties to the conflict to end the violence.” She also stressed on the fact that aid workers are not being given access to help the people of South Sudan. Surprisingly it is both the government and opposition who are frustrating the efforts of the aid workers.
Ms. Richards added “Without this access and an end to the violence, we are looking at the worst-case scenario of famine, the spread of infectious diseases, and the specter of worsening conditions fueling perpetual conflict. We share the vision of South Sudan’s people for a peaceful, unified, democratic state. The South Sudanese people deserve to have their rights protected and to live free of fear and violence.”
The US has pledged an additional $273 million for the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. More then 2 million people have been internally displaced. There is also a food crisis in the country and 3.5 million people need food assistance. The US alone has already spent close to 1 billion dollars in South Sudan.
The new funding will go into buying food including specialty nutritional supplements for children suffering from malnutrition, provide seeds, tools, and agricultural training for farmers. It will also be used to meet the urgent needs for food including specialty nutrition supplements for children suffering from malnutrition. It will also support programs that provide seeds, tools, and agricultural training to help South Sudanese farmers restart their livelihoods and feed their families.
The funding will also be used to boost emergency health services, support medical and psychosocial services for survivors of gender based violence, provide emergency education for displaced children, and support aid agencies which are putting up camps for refugees to be able to provide tents and household basics to displaced refugees.
The South Sudanese government had made a commitment that they would provide assistance to their people and give them support but so far they haven’t lived up to their commitment.
Ms. Richard also called for multi-donor support to the crisis. She urged donors to increase their contribution to the response and to provide life saving aid for the South Sudanese people.
The Assistant Secretary also expressed the US government’s frustration that aid was being given to South Sudan for a man made crisis which would have been better used for development. She posed the question, “Imagine what the money could have done for development? It is heartbreaking that South Sudan had achieved so much and they have lost it all through fighting.” The Government and opposition have been dragging the process and even going back on previously agreed commitments to power sharing.
“You cannot want peace more then the people in the country wanting to have peace. You expect family members to put aside personal gains and look at the people.” The leaders represent people. They are not looking at how the people are living. They need to go visit the people and see how those people are living in the bush. It is important for them to see and hear what the people are going through. The leaders owe it to the people to make South Sudan livable for them.”
US Special Envoy to South Sudan Susan Page said that US has already imposed sanctions on 4 people in South Sudan. 2 people from the government including a high ranking general and 2 from the opposition. The sanctions include travel bans, visa prohibitions, and freezing of US bank accounts. Also they cannot transfer funds to the US. The US is cognizant of the fact that most of the accounts of the South Sudanese leaders involved in the conflict are in East Africa. They are hoping that African countries will sanction the South Sudanese leaders as well. Whether there will be tougher sanctions remains to be seen even as the issue of an arms embargo is being discussed.
Ms. Richard also thanked the neigbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda for keeping their borders open to refugees from South Sudan and others who are also seeking safety and asylum. On the issue of refugees she said that there are 2 most important concerns. One is that the refugees are able to reach a place of safety. The desire of every refugee is that they will be able to go home. The second is that while in exile the refugees will be able to live a normal life as possible. The US supports countries that allow them to be able to get some education and jobs. They are the biggest financial supporters of UNHCR.
There is a sense now that donors are getting donor fatigue as millions have been spent and there looks to be no clear end in sight for the man made crisis in South Sudan. Natural disasters do not have problems getting funding as they are usually unexpected events. But a crisis that is fuelled by leaders who care more about their own positions and their selfish desires then the people is a situation that is now getting on the nerves of the donor community.