Washington, D.C. (Sept. 22, 2016) — On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing titled “South Sudan: Options in Crisis” with testimony from Better World Campaign President & UN Foundation Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy, Peter Yeo. The hearing focused on potential paths forward as violence continues throughout the nation and civilians remain in grave danger as a result of flaring tensions between the government and rebel forces.
As Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee emphasized, “Despite the significant efforts of the U.S. and the international community, violent impunity persists.” Ranking Member Ben Cardin of Maryland stated in an op-ed published the day before that, “The peace agreement, if not dead, is certainly on life support, which the outbreak of violence in July and the flaring up of violence across the country affirm.”
Peter Yeo detailed the incomparable nature of the task before the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and testified that:
“UNMISS remains the thin blue line protecting many South Sudanese civilians from government troops and a myriad of other heavily armed militias intent on harming them… The UN did not anticipate protecting 200,000 civilians when the mission was created five years ago. But when conflict erupted in December 2013…the UN moved to protect them at a scale unprecedented in UN history.
In addition, Yeo underscored that:
“For the past three years, the UN Mission has been severely limited in its ability to carry out its mandate. The South Sudanese government has repeatedly violated the Status of Forces Agreement, which guarantees free movement to UN peacekeepers. With the violent attacks on UN Protection of Civilian sites by government soldiers in Malakal in February, Bentiu in April, and Juba in July, the government has now moved from partner to predator.”
He also acknowledged that UNMISS failed to protect civilians during the February attacks in Malakal and July attacks in Juba, and stated that it is imperative that the Mission learn from its mistakes.
Reiterating that the government of South Sudan continues to hinder UNMISS’ and humanitarian agencies’ ability to protect civilians, Yeo made clear the UN is still doing all it can to provide aid to the millions of civilians in need and that an arms embargo should be imposed. He also presented important considerations for the future, including whether the Regional Protection Force (RPF) can meet its mandate under continued government obstruction and whether the Security Council is prepared for peacekeepers to engage in active combat, if necessary, with the South Sudanese. He concluded by stressing the importance of greater unity amongst UNMISS, Troop Contributing Countries and the Security Council “to pressure the Government of South Sudan – in fact, all warring parties -to stop the killings of civilians, and return to a partnership with the UN.”
About the Better World Campaign
The Better World Campaign works to foster a strong relationship between the U.S. and the UN to promote core American interests and build a more secure, prosperous, and healthy world. The Better World Campaign engages policymakers, the media, and the American public alike to increase awareness of the critical role played by the UN in world affairs and the importance of constructive U.S.-UN relations.