September 20, 2016

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on “South Sudan: Options in Crisis”

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing: “South Sudan: Options in Crisis”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman

Opening Statement

It’s been nearly a year since we last discussed the unwillingness of the South Sudanese officials to govern responsibly. Despite the significant efforts of the U.S. and the international community, violent impunity persists.

As this crisis erupted in July, President Kiir’s forces apparently fired on U.S. diplomatic vehicles, shot and injured a U.N. official, terrorized American and other aid workers, and executed a South Sudanese journalist.

President Kiir consolidated control after yet another contrived military action against his former deputy, Riek Machar.

Kiir’s recent replacement of Machar with a poorly-supported opposition alternative likely invalidates the unity government and the August 2015 peace agreement itself.

I think it calls into question what our U.S. commitment should be with others, and I know there’s a range of options that we will explore today as we hear from you.

South Sudan achieved independence in 2011 after a desperate effort to break free from a violent and oppressive Sudanese government.

Tragically, South Sudan’s leaders followed a similar repressive path, targeting women and children, killing civilians, and targeting refugees and humanitarians for rape, torture and death.

Five years on, South Sudan remains desperately reliant on international assistance, yet its government persists in inflaming the circumstances for famine and war.

One in five South Sudanese have fled their homes and over one million refugees have fled their country to safer places, unbelievably, such as Darfur, which just a few years ago was not perceived that way.

The international community has long held off imposing sanctions with the vague hope that responsibility would somehow emerge.

The inclination to rob, cheat, and kill has persisted as evidenced by recent violent events and legitimate reports of gross corruption of Kiir, Machar, and their cronies, who continue to divert dwindling resources. 

Let me just say an exclamation point here – this has turned out for both of them to be all about one thing, which is money, using their own people against each other who are being systematically killed over their desire – from my perspective – to loot their country to enrich themselves personally.

July’s violence once again exposed the limitations of South Sudan’s U.N. peacekeeping mission [UNMISS], which is unable to meet the mandate to protect civilians under U.N. protection, including those being raped yards from their front gate. 

Again, I don’t know how many times we’re going to hear of our peacekeeping efforts falling short. I know this is a unique circumstance,    but I believe the U.N. has been totally feckless as it relates to addressing this issue. Again, I know that these people are overstretched right now in South Sudan, but it continues to be a problem with U.S. peacekeeping troops.

UNMISS is testing the already stretched limits of peacekeeping missions and with the addition of Protection of Civilian sites and a proposed Regional Protection Force, one must ask, is this a recipe for failure?

I am interested in hearing today from our distinguished witnesses how the international community can sustain a humanitarian effort in South Sudan while fundamentally changing the dynamic with the actors in South Sudan, including regional sanctions.

I welcome our witnesses, two of whom bring a critical on-the-ground perspective as well as perceptions of international actions to date as we consider what’s happening and alternative options.

I want to thank you for being here and turn to our distinguished ranking member, Ben Cardin.