The United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) released a report on June 29, detailing human rights atrocities in South Sudan. The litany of abuses has now become familiar: gang rape, torture, killing, and the destruction of villages. The UN reports that the military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), launched a major offensive in northwestern Mayom County that resulted in the displacement of over 100,000 people.
Survivors claimed that women and girls were burned alive after being gang raped by soldiers in nine separate incidents. There are also reports of similar atrocities by rebels, including the recruitment of child soldiers. The SPLA denies UN agencies access to sites of the alleged atrocities, and it has not commented on the June 29 report.
The current civil war started in December 2013, with a falling-out between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar. A subsequent cycle of retaliatory killings has morphed into what resembles an ethnic conflict, broadly between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer. Since the fighting started, it is estimated that there are at least 1.6 million internally displaced persons in South Sudan.There are other conflicts between herders and farmers and over water use that are not reducible to ethnicity. There is now an overlay of warlordism. The “legitimate” government in Juba hardly appears to function, and lacks legitimacy from a significant part of the South Sudanese population.
Given the intractable bloodshed, continued human rights abuses, and the apparent unwillingness or inability of Salva Kiir, Riek Machar, and the South Sudanese elites to stop the violence, there needs to be serious consideration of the revival of something like the old UN Trusteeship Council, by which an outside body could supervise the administration of South Sudan until it is fully ready for independence. Such an entity could impose an end of the killing and nurture the establishment and development of institutions of governance. This body could also be of use in other countries coping with protracted conflicts, such as the Central African Republic. Ideally, such a body would be created by a regional, multilateral institution, such as the African Union (AU). However, the AU might lack the capacity to undertake such a task. In that case, the burden reverts to the UN Security Council. There will be objections from the donors as to the cost and duration of the mission. But, the international community has already spent billions of dollars on South Sudan, apparently to no avail.