This post was written by Danny Hirschel-Burns and Baylen Campbell. Danny Hirschel-Burns is the STAND National Policy Coordinator. He’s a senior at Swarthmore College majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies and minoring in History. Baylen Campbell is STAND’s Regional Specialist on Sudan/South Sudan and a Senior at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. Being an International Affairs major, he focuses on the relations between natural resources and development within the region.
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April is Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month, and two resolutions have recently been proposed, one in the House and one in the Senate, that could improve the American ability to prevent further atrocities.
A House Resolution regarding the Republic of South Sudan was put forth by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) who sits on the Subcommittee for Africa, Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organizations. The resolution, House Resolution (H. Res.) 503, discusses the overall need to provide the world’s newest state with assistance in order to bring about social, political, and economic stability. In the Senate, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), who has a long history of engaging on African issues, proposed Senate Resolution (S. Res.) 375. The resolution condemns recent violence, encourages good governance, and proposes future international cooperation to aid civilians and reduce violence in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Since gaining its independence in July of 2011, South Sudan has faced numerous challenges in bringing about stability for its people after a long history of civil war. In this period, the government of South Sudan has struggled to combat long-standing ethnic divisions that have directly impacted South Sudanese politics. In December 2013 conflict broke out as tensions erupted between parties aligned with the President Salva Kiir and the former Vice-President Riek Machar. The initial spark of violence, which government officials claimed to be a failed coup attempt, resulted in the arrest of political opposition leaders and the displacement of over 800,000 people. It is this type of political environment that continues to overshadow large-scale ongoing humanitarian relief efforts within the country.
Representative Smith’s resolution represents an all-encompassing plan to assist the government of South Sudan in combating conflict within the country. Firstly, the resolution would reinforce the ceasefire signed on January 23rd, 2013 as well as the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of combatants. The resolution also includes multiple clauses allowing the US to provide support in creating good governance within the country and strengthening its regional ties within Central and West Africa. Lastly the resolution proposes that the US provide financial and technical assistance in grassroots reconciliation and development efforts with a focus on capacity building in order to support long-term stability.
CAR had long had a weak central government that was unable, and generally unwilling, to effectively deliver services to large portions of its population. In December of 2012, Seleka, a majority-Muslim political and military alliance from CAR’s northeast, began a rebellion against the government of President Bozize with the help of mercenaries from Chad and Sudan. Four months later, they succeeded in overthrowing Bozize and Seleka leader Michel Djotodia was installed as President. However, he quickly proved unable to control or disband Seleka troops, who began to abuse civilians en masse. In response, majority-Christian “anti-balaka” militias formed to protect their communities, but they quickly became just as abusive and the conflict took on an increasing sectarian tone. Djotodia was eventually replaced by Catherine Samba Panza in January 2014, and anti-Muslim persecution has caused the majority of CAR’s Muslim population to flee to Chad. Roughly half of CAR’s population, or 2.2 million people, currently need humanitarian assistance.
S. Res. 375 firstly condemns the violence in the CAR and welcomes attempts to decrease religious tensions in the country. Next, it commends various actors, from the African Union to France to the Economic Community of Central African States, for their previous mitigation efforts. Third, the resolution calls for a short-term multilateral approach to CAR. Finally, the resolution calls on President Obama to develop a long-term approach to CAR that would provide funds, work with international partners, and return a diplomatic presence to the country in order to help achieve peace.
Overall, the passing of H. Res. 503 and S. Res. 375 would mark as a huge success for the consolidated support of atrocity prevention within US foreign policy. Resolutions such as these present a positive approach to bring about long-term stability within states struggling with violent conflict and mass atrocities.