Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing on the situation in South Sudan:
“Let me welcome our panelists, all of whom are as deeply troubled as all of us are by the situation in South Sudan.
We have many questions about the direction in which this young nation is headed and the greater implications of the conflict and I hope our panelists will provide us with deeper insights into the situation on the ground which, I might add, underscores the importance of Congress moving quickly on Embassy Security with our Embassy in Juba operating at severely reduced capacity as a result of the violence.
Looking back, the U.S. Government, and members of this Committee, were hopeful when we strongly supported South Sudan’s independence in 2011.
After decades of war with the Sudanese government, the people of South Sudan voted in favor of self-determination and the chance to create an inclusive, democratic, prosperous society. Now, that ideal is in jeopardy.
Over 1000 people have been killed. More than 194,000 have been displaced and humanitarian conditions will surely deteriorate as access to conflict-areas diminishes.
I think we can all agree that it is absolutely necessary that – to avoid a downward spiral into further ethnic violence and chaos – all armed elements must cease hostilities immediately.
A continuation of violence will only jeopardize future U.S. engagement and further U.S. assistance.
Having said that, there is some sign of hope and reason for some optimism. I commend the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and other African leaders for successfully arranging negotiations in Ethiopia. And I commend President Kiir and Former Vice President Machar for sending delegations to talks in Addis Ababa.
At the end of the day, there is only one option. Let me reiterate Secretary Kerry’s remarks that “all parties must make serious efforts to seek an inclusive political solution.”
Today’s panelists are to help us better understand the road to that political solution and the broader implications of the current crisis.
We hope to gain insight into the nature of the rebellion – Are the units cohesive? Are they fragmented? How much control does Machar have over rebel forces?
I would hope our panelists can provide answers to the basic questions before us: Is there a danger the violence will spiral out of control? What are the underlying political and ethnic grievances that must be addressed? What are the most immediate humanitarian needs? What efforts have been undertaken by the U.S., UN agencies, and the international community to meet those needs? And what would long- and short-term political reconciliation look like?
With that, let me turn to Senator Corker for his opening statement.”