U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power visited South Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya last week, as part of a United Nations Security Council trip.
The delegation traveled to the region to express the Council’s grave concern over the country’s deepening humanitarian crisis and the breakdown in peace negotiations between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. The two leaders’ failure to honor previous agreements to end the hostilities has perpetuated violent attacks on civilians, human rights abuses, and pushed the country to the brink of becoming a failed state. Already, more than 10,000 people have been killed since last December as a result of the continued violence and 50,000 children could die from malnutrition within the year. The Security Council has threatened punitive measures if the two sides do not take action to deescalate the conflict and improve the humanitarian situation for the people of South Sudan. During separate meetings with President Kiir and former Vice President Machar, the Council emphasized that there would be consequences for those responsible for atrocities and obstructing the cause of peace in South Sudan.
The Security Council traveled to an UNMISS camp in Malakal to witness first-hand the devastation and displacement caused by the conflict. While there, they engaged directly with leaders from the IDP camp which currently houses more than 17,000 civilians across many ethnic groups. The message from them, “We want peace.”
UN camp in Malakal opened doors to 27K civilians in danger. Camps get flooded inside—but IDPs fear massacres outside. pic.twitter.com/2Cu5hhvJmS
— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) August 12, 2014
The Security Council also visited Somalia, which, in addition to being the first Council trip to the country since 1994, marked the first visit by a U.S. Cabinet official in over 20 years. Ambassador Power discussed with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the importance of creating an independent human rights commission and the ongoing fight to defeat al-Shabaab. She also urged President Mohamud and his government to do more to empower women – like encouraging them to run in the upcoming 2016 elections and involving them in the political process and peace negotiations. During the Council’s meeting, President Mohamud said, “Many people can’t believe you’re here. It’s a new opening for Somalia.”
During a stop in Nairobi, the Security Council met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and discussed the key role of regional leaders in the peace talks. With millions of lives at stake, Ambassador Power said, “It was deeply sad. Both Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir appeared to have lost consciousness around the big issues of the day.”
President Kenyatta echoed those sentiments while urging the Council and IGAD to work together to voice one strong, clear message about the action that must be taken to put an end to the violence and suffering in South Sudan.
In the course of just two days, the Security Council held meetings with Presidents and Prime Ministers, members of civil society, humanitarians, opposition parties, and Foreign Ministers and lead mediators of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).