August 4, 2014 (SSNA) — With South Sudan edging closer to the predicted famine that is poised to affect a third of its population, and with the peace talks to end the devastating civil war exhibiting little urgency, it is not far-fetched to conclude that the international community has abandoned us.
The appeal for $1.8 billion, a funding threshold required to arrest the humanitarian situation and South Sudan’s rapid descent into famine is yet to be reached, as funding commitments made by several members of the donor community remain unfulfilled.
But I guess such reluctance from the donor community is predictable, as most members of the donor community have probably never experienced surviving on water lilies, or going to bed with an empty stomach growling for a mouthful.
In addition, the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan has now earned the label “man-made,” which means it could have been avoided. The implication, which has been publicly voiced by some, is that South Sudan’s political leadership is to blame for creating the humanitarian crisis and the conducive conditions for the impending famine.
WHO GETS WHAT
It is common knowledge that the international community tends to respond to these kinds of crises after the fact, when graphic images of vultures waiting to feast on the corpse of a starving child begin to circulate in the media.
They tend to respond even more swiftly if the humanitarian crisis is a result of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and Tsunamis, just to mention but a few examples.
It is understandable, therefore, that there is an overall reluctance to clean up a humanitarian mess created by reckless leadership and greedy politicians in South Sudan, only that it is the hapless poor South Sudanese in remote rural areas who are bearing the brunt.
The politicians’ immediate family, relatives, stolen wealth and illegally accumulated assets are all stashed away in safe havens in the region, or abroad in the Middle East and the West.
Our political leaders, who hold the key to ending the suffering of our people, also seem to have forgotten where we all came from when it comes to suffering from hunger and starvation.
The government of South Sudan seems to not be bothered, as demonstrated by its recent squandering of a reported $1 billion in arms purchases from China.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian community appeals for funding that is not forthcoming to prevent an impending humanitarian catastrophe billed as the worst in our history.
The government remains preoccupied with counting the cost of war and committed to allocating funds for its continued execution, which further exacerbates the already dire humanitarian situation in South Sudan.
Amidst talk of the resumption of peace talks to deliberate the composition of an interim government, opposition parties and “civil society” groups are equally consumed with who gets what position in the interim arrangements and the “new political dispensation.”
This is at the expense of embarking on robust policy advocacy and channelling of collective efforts to mitigate the impending famine so as to, if partially, alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable South Sudanese women, children and the elderly in the conflict hotspots who are poised to be affected most when real starvation hits.
Since the violent outbreak in mid-December last year, the suffering South Sudanese poor have been treated to endless but hollow utterances of public condemnation after atrocities committed in the wake of every violation of the several agreements and re-commitments to agreements signed on cessation of hostilities in the past several months.
Threats of targeted sanctions, travel bans and asset freezes of the perpetrators of civilian atrocities and gross human rights abuses remain but threats, ineffective enough to scare even a dog.
The handful of targeted sanctions, travel bans and asset freezes that have been handed out by the Americans and the Europeans are toothless and have circumvented the godheads and lords of the civil war and the real peace spoilers of the peace process.
In short, the international community has not done enough. They know it. And unless regional and international efforts are redoubled to coerce the parties in the conflict into urgently signing a peace agreement or risk facing serious punitive measures and consequences, South Sudanese will continue to feel abandoned.
Tongun Lo Loyuong is a South Sudanese expert and researcher in international peace studies. He studied at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and is currently pursuing a PhD in the UK. Email: [email protected] or leave a message on his blog: http://tloloyuong.wordpress.com/. This article first appeared in the Kenyan Daily Nation.