Men forced to carve and eat human flesh. Women gang raped by soldiers. Government-allied forces paid in women. Children abused and enslaved. These are just a few of the accounts flooding out of South Sudan. Despite reports from the United Nations on the ethnic slaughter that has engulfed the world’s youngest country, the world is not interested. With the Nigerian led intervention in Gambia, and the African Cup of Nations filling the continent’s disproportionately small quota of column inches, we may well be about to see a repeat “of what happened in Rwanda”, according to the UN.
Even more alarmingly, there seems to be little appetite to counter the spiral towards genocide regionally, and a reluctance internationally to recognise the South Sudanese government’s devotion to brutality. Without immediate UN deployments, we will once again be culpable for letting an avertable situation metastasise into the race murder of millions of people.
Unlike in Rwanda which was defined by one ethnic group exterminating another, the situation in the Sudan is slightly different, but has the potential to be even more calamitous. Both the Dinka, South Sudan’s largest ethnic group, and the Nuer, the second largest, are already killing one another in increasing numbers, as well as burning villages and employing rape as a weapon of war.
Estimates of the death-toll are already in excess of 50,000, with the conflict both spreading and intensifying every day that nothing is done. In August last year, forces allied to the government stormed an aid compound, the sole purpose of which was to provide medical care and food for some of the 3.7 million Sudanese suffering from ‘severe food insecurity’.
After seizing the compound, the militiamen proceeded systematically to rape the female aid-workers, in one case fifteen times consecutively by different men. The UN’s failure to prevent this led to the Kenyan leader of the mission being removed. But as a result Kenya has petulantly pulled its 1,000 troops from the operation. The South Sudanese government is now refusing to even allow a UN deployment of 4,000 peacekeepers to enter the country, irrefutable evidence that the last thing they want is a potential obstacle in the way of their campaign of rape and ethnic slaughter. Surely it is now time to stop treating this regime with legitimacy, and inform them that as signatories to the Genocide Convention, we are compelled to prevent and punish, whether they like it or not. The British government must put pressure regional powers to step in, and the British people must insist that our leaders act now.
Don’t let it be said that you stood by and watched.