Home Opinions Ideas The Jewish duty to speak out about South Sudan

The Jewish duty to speak out about South Sudan

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A young girl flies the flag of South Sudan. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS PHOTO

There is no denying the egregious crimes perpetrated by the diabolical triad of Syria, Russia  and Iran against the defenceless civilians in Aleppo. We have witnessed the stream of  unconscionable atrocities flowing into our television screens and social media on a daily basis.

Yet, once again, the United Nations and international community are too paralyzed to act.

But there is another civil war ongoing the last three years which has descended into the same depth of depravity and scale of atrocities as the conflict in Syria. It is in the nascent country of South Sudan. Unfortunately, as usual, Africa barely registers a ripple in the ocean of world affairs. On Nov. 28, 2016, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Genocide Prevention Committee sounded the alarm, noting that conditions are ripe in South Sudan for another “Rwanda-like” genocide.

South Sudan seceded from the Republic of Sudan in July 2011, following a referendum. Prior to secession, the people of south Sudan – who are ethnically African and predominately Christian –fought two long, bloody civil wars  against the northern government in Khartoum, dominated by  ethnically Arab and Muslim majority.

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In 1955, when the shackles of British colonialism were removed and the Republic of Sudan was artificially created, the Arab north took over the reins of government and disenfranchised the African south politically, culturally, and economically. The south rebelled. Later, after a brief respite from war in the 1970s, civil war resumed when oil was discovered in the south and in response to the north’s attempt to Islamicize the south and enact Sharia law.

The backdrop of the Darfur genocide, nearly a decade ago, was predicated on the government of Khartoum putting down another rebellion in western Sudan against African Muslims. It was in this context, after a comprehensive peace agreement between the two sides, that the south voted overwhelmingly to separate giving birth to the new country of South Sudan.

Of course, there had been tribal tensions among the African tribes before, and even outbreaks of violence, but battling the common enemy in Khartoum forged a united front. As the fledgling country of South Sudan emerged, it seemed to transition seamlessly into democracy as elections were held. Not withstanding its poverty, there was peace and stability.

Then, in December 2013, violence erupted in South Sudan. It started as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former vice-president, Riek Machar. Kiir accused Machar of planning a coup against him. As a result, violent clashes broke out between soldiers loyal to each man. Both leaders recruited soldiers from their respective tribal groups – Kiir’s Dinka tribe, the largest, pitted against Machar’s Nuer tribe, the next biggest in size.

Both sides have targeted attacks on civilians from the other’s ethnic group. South Sudan is littered with mass graves as soldiers from both sides have committed large-scale rape, torture and mass murder. According to estimates, up to 300,000 people have been killed. Approximately three million more, in a country of 12 million, have been displaced – close to two million internally and one million more to neighbouring countries.

Back in late November, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum called upon “the political and community leaders in South Sudan to actively combat hate speech and make it clear violence against civilians will not be tolerated.” The United Nations special adviser for the prevention of genocide, Adam Dieng, has also expressed his alarm “of the inflammatory rhetoric, stereotyping, and name calling” that dehumanizes and denigrates the other side.

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We must strongly urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and our government to take international leadership in addressing the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. The feckless UN peacekeeping forces must be significantly augmented to protect vulnerable civilians. Peace talks must recommence in earnest. Arms embargoes and economic sanctions against South Sudanese leaders must be attempted.

I remain incredulous that barely any ink has been spilled, images shown or voices raised with respect to disturbing events developing in South Sudan. But the Jewish community can help change that. Jews must continue to be the canary in the coal mine whenever the nefarious prospect of genocide rears its ugly head. The Jewish community did so during the Darfur genocide, and we must heed the call once more and marshal our resources. n

Norman L. Epstein is a physician and a former leader in the Canadian Darfur Movement.

  • TerrorIsEvil

    Thanks for explaining in detail this crisis so well. I don’t know why Africans can’t get their act together because they have all the resources and manpower they need to create many great nations on that continent. Once again, this example in Sudan, there is that looming Islamic threat we see in many parts of the world. Islamism wants to force its way on Africans and to exploit the people and the resources. There is no
    freedom once Islam has infiltrated and Islamists have assumed power and put the people under their control. The inter-tribal wars are just as troubling and must be brought to an end by Africans.

    The UN is not the agency to stop war. It is too busy making sure that Jews do not build homes on land in Israel that “Palestinians” want to add to their 20+ nations in that region. If you give the UN more money, it will be wastefully spent on propaganda and commissions that promote antisemitism and teach hate curricula to “Palestinians.”

    I think that we need a new effective United Force, to replace the UN, that projects Western power and humanity with its primary focus to break up disputes such as these and to get food and shelter to affected regions. There needs to be an pan-African army (there is one now but it needs to be developed further) assembled to quell violence and stop war in these killing fields. Maybe the pan-African force could be a branch of the United Force.

    Instead of pretending that bringing in tens of thousands of refugees into Canada is the best way to alleviate suffering (most of the refugees being brought in are already well-clothed, well-fed, with cell phones in hand – only the strongest make it out) we should help people in affected areas such as Sudan and Syria on the ground in their own countries. Many more can be helped over there than the few we manage to help here and then they will be available to re-build once the violence and war stops.