JUBA – An American scholar is saying that administrations in the United States are condoning a well-documented genocide in South Sudan and has have continue “to consider that a genocidal state [in South Sudan] is better than state collapse.”
Clémence Pinaud, an Assistant Professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, and the author of War and Genocide in South Sudan, said in an opinion piece published by the Democracy in Africa website that despite the US labeling the treatment of Chinese Uighurs as genocide, the US has stopped short to do the same for the continued atrocities against civilians in South Sudan.
“The Trump and Biden administrations both declared China’s treatment of the Uighurs to be genocide. But the U.S. government has never applied the label of genocide to the mass killing, gang-rape and starvation of non-Dinka civilians by the state it midwifed: South Sudan, independent since 2011,” Professor Pinaud wrote.
“It could have. Since 2005, a clique of Dinka politicians hailing from the region of Dinka President Salva Kiir, asserted creeping control over the state. After the country’s independence in 2011, inter-ethnic competition – including between different factions of the very large Dinka group – accelerated ethnic ranking. State repression and violence became the glue of this system of political and ethnic domination,” he added.
“On December 15th, 2013, as President Kiir continued to oppose a democratic transition, a political conflict with his most aggressive competitor, his former Vice-President, Riek Machar, a Nuer – the second majority ethnic group – culminated in fighting in Juba.
“The next morning, Juba’s residents woke up to sounds of the largest systematic massacre in the country’s recorded history. Over a week, the state massacred – mostly by shooting – some 15,000 to 20,000 Nuer civilians in Juba: twice as much as Srebrenica’s massacre, declared genocide at The Hague.
“A Juba resident I interviewed described ‘seven days of killings, from house to house. I saw six soldiers through the fence. A Nuer man just opened his door and was shot in the head.’ This massacre of the Nuer made civil war inevitable and set the tone for future genocidal violence.
“The U.S. was the leader of the international community in South Sudan. But Obama’s administration let the genocidal massacre of the Nuer slide all the while reducing its diplomatic presence in the country. The Obama administration, stuck in ideological predispositions dictating since the 1990s that the Arabs of Sudan represented evil, and the African Christians of the South, innocence, kept supporting South Sudan’s government.
“Washington’s inaction emboldened Kiir’s faction: it learned that it could get away with what, in retrospect, turned out to be the first phase of a multi-ethnic genocide against non-Dinka groups.
“Between 2014 and 2015, South Sudan’s government went after Nuer civilians living in Unity State, the homeland of Riek Machar, Kiir’s rival. It organized and subcontracted multiple armed groups to execute, burn, torture and gang-rape en masse civilians. ‘For the old ladies, they rape them and let them to die or hang them from the tukuls (houses)’ a survivor explained to me then. The reason was simple, explained another survivor: “The government says ‘these Nuer people are rebels’”.
“The selection of victims by virtue of their membership to a ‘rebel’ ethnic group to eliminate, was typical of genocide. The perpetrators expressed their intent to kill them in both direct and indirect ways, including when they implemented a policy of mass genocidal gang-rape meant to destroy and cripple the Nuer. They did everything to compromise their victims’ survival.
“U.S. continued to support South Sudan’s government. Susan Rice, a long-time advocate of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army during the Clinton administration, known for her advocacy against using the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of Rwanda’s Tutsis, continued to help shape America’s policy toward South Sudan, first as UN Ambassador from 2009 to 2013, and then as National Security Advisor.
“Rice had declared, on her position during the Rwanda genocide: “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”
“But Rice never went down in flames for South Sudan. Instead, in 2015, she blocked an arms embargo against the government of South Sudan, while the SPLA chief of staff Paul Malong was recruiting more Dinka militias, and when the government’s atrocities vastly outdid those by the rebels.
“In August 2015, under international pressure, a peace agreement was signed between Machar’s rebels and Kiir’s government. But ten months later, on July 8th, 2016, the government triggered fighting in Juba with Machar’s troops. Dinka perpetrators – soldiers joined by their civilian relatives – expanded their ethnic targeting to include in their killings the inhabitants of Equatoria, the region where Juba is located.
“They considered the inhabitants of Equatoria guilty by association with the Nuer. “I heard we are the next to be killed” a Juba resident said to me back then. A relative of a Dinka SPLA soldier had warned him: “After the Nuer, you Equatorians are next”.
“But the Obama administration endorsed the government’s strategy, which after orchestrating fighting in Juba and an internal coup co-opting Machar’s deputy (Taban Deng), consisted in chasing Machar into the Congolese bush. It legitimized Kiir’s government and tactics, all the while reducing its diplomatic presence again.
“It continued to look away as government troops, almost exclusively Dinka, inflicted the same type of violence against civilians in Central Equatoria as they had against the Nuer. Government troops were not shy about their intentions, a key element in the legal determination of genocide. A gang-rape survivor recounted: ‘The SPLA said it wanted to kill all the people so that only birds remain in South Sudan’.”