U.S. Officials Warn of Escalating Violence, Suspension of Aid in South Sudan

Fighting has spread to most state’s in the new democracy.

Thousands of Southern Sudanese wave the flag of their new country during a ceremony in the capital Juba on July 09, 2011 to celebrate South Sudan's independence from Sudan. South Sudan separated from Sudan to become the world's newest nation. AFP PHOTO/Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Jan. 10, 2014, 1:45 a.m.

Aid to South Su­dan could be partly sus­pen­ded if on­go­ing vi­ol­ence is not stopped, U.S. of­fi­cials said Thursday as they pressed the new Afric­an na­tion’s gov­ern­ment to al­low for great­er polit­ic­al in­clu­sion.

The se­cur­ity situ­ation in the re­l­at­ively young coun­try has de­teri­or­ated over the past few weeks. South Su­dan Pres­id­ent Salva Kiir said in mid-Decem­ber that mil­it­ants loy­al to Riek Machar, a former mem­ber of Kiir’s gov­ern­ment who was dis­missed in Ju­ly, tried to stage a coup.

“We have not seen any evid­ence of a coup at­tempt, but it cer­tainly was the res­ult of a huge polit­ic­al rift,” said Linda Thomas-Green­field, the as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary of State for afric­an af­fairs.

The two sides are en­gaged in a back-and-forth on reach­ing a cease­fire agree­ment, but Thomas-Green­field noted that U.S. of­fi­cials are not cur­rently con­fid­ent that the talks will be suc­cess­ful. Nancy Lind­borg, the as­sist­ant ad­min­is­trat­or for demo­cracy, con­flict, and hu­man­it­ari­an as­sist­ance at the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tion­al De­vel­op­ment, said 240,000 people have fled their homes since the fight­ing — which has spread to sev­en of South Su­dan’s 10 states — star­ted.

“I would sus­pect that at a point if this vi­ol­ence con­tin­ues that we would sus­pend that sup­port,” Thomas-Green­field said, re­fer­ring to aid for the South Su­danese gov­ern­ment. The United States also provides hu­man­it­ari­an aid. 

Machar is de­mand­ing that the South Su­danese gov­ern­ment re­lease 11 polit­ic­al pris­on­ers. Kiir sug­ges­ted around Christ­mas he would re­lease most of them, but he has yet to do so. U.S. of­fi­cials are back­ing the push to re­lease the polit­ic­al pris­on­ers — who Machar wants in­cluded in the cur­rent ne­go­ti­ations.

“They will bring some polit­ic­al views that are much more mod­er­ate,” Thomas-Green­field said. But she noted that U.S. of­fi­cials have also “made clear to the rebels that we will not re­cog­nize a vi­ol­ent over­throw of a demo­crat­ic­ally elec­ted gov­ern­ment.”

The State De­part­ment of­fi­cials’ com­ments came be­fore a Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee hear­ing Thursday, which marks the three-year an­niversary of the start of the vote for South Su­dan’s in­de­pend­ence. The vote — which took place from Jan. 9, 2011 to Jan. 15, 2011 — gained broad sup­port from sen­at­ors in both parties at the time.

Thomas-Green­field will head to across the Cap­it­ol Wed­nes­day to testi­fy be­fore the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee.

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