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World should step in to end S. Sudan crisis

Saturday September 9 2017

South Sudanese refugees at Kuluba Reception Centre in Uganda. PHOTO |  ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP

South Sudanese refugees at Kuluba Reception Centre in Uganda. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP  

By ERIC WAMANJI
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Tabu Sunday is a name many haven’t heard of. From pictures, the 14-year-old easily passes for an ordinary village girl.

But Sunday is the poster child of the barbarism tormenting South Sudan.

According to the UNHCR, Sunday symbolically is the millionth refugee fleeing her country to Uganda.

The fact that a million others are scattered around the world should distress the community of nations. South Sudanese are fleeing atrocities as narrow venal interests reign supreme back home.

The UNHCR sums the bloody mess thus: “Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence, with armed groups burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assault of women and girls and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription.”

PEACE AGREEMENT

This is in spite of a 2015 peace agreement between President Salva Kiir and his opponent Riek Machar to end the brutal civil war.

The UN Mission In South Sudan and relief agencies are largely cocooned in Juba. Militants even had the audacity to sack an NGO compound and rape workers.

South Sudan is an embarrassment to Africa and the world.

After fighting gruelling battles in the bush, these folks attracted global mercy. Money and goodwill poured like the Nile.

Unfortunately, the leaders are rustic, war-psyched and irredeemable from their beastly instincts.

Machar and Kiir — warlords pretending to be democrats — are barren of conscience.

VICTORY

Such is a toxic pair that neither is befitting of victory and reign over a fragile country.

At this time and age of international consciousness on humanitarian realities, it is naïve to imagine that the icons of hate, greed and division can be judicious and fair upon victory.

In such a sharply divided environment where arsenal and military reflexes are ubiquitous, you need a powerful external force to turn the course of history.

International laws and frameworks provide for external interventions when a state is incapable or unwilling to protect its citizens. Several frameworks, like the 2005 doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), have been invoked but not fully or successfully.

That is why the UN, the African Union and Inter Governmental Authority on Development should bolster their muscles, even if it is against the wishes of Kiir.

SOVEREIGNTY

The president resists the presence of peacekeeping and regional protection forces, citing sovereignty. Interestingly, vice president Taban Deng strongly supported the R2P principle when it was mooted.

But sovereignty has evolved with globalisation and doctrines of international humanitarian law. It is no longer absolute.

Further, technically, the state of South Sudan has lost its legitimacy and power over its territory and on its cardinal responsibility of protecting citizens.

Options like diplomacy, peacekeeping and sanctions have failed. That is how and why a transition caretaker government comes in.

It worked in Liberia, Cambodia, Kosovo and East Timor.

ETHNIC BIGOTS

Such a government drawn from sober icons across the ethnic divide would provide a post-conflict reconstruction, including establishing a progressive constitution, justice for victims and deradicalisation of ethnic bigots.

It will also promote civic education and democratisation such as establishment independent institutions like courts, commissions and parliament and professionalising the military and the police.

Now is the time to end the savagery in South Sudan. If not, this tragedy will produce more Sundays, tears, blood, toil and deaths.

Mr Wamanji is a Public Relations expert. [email protected] Twitter: @manjis