The United States should reexamine its aid efforts to South Sudan, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, for committing crimes against Western humanitarian aid groups, former U.S. officials and analysts said on Tuesday.
South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused former vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Since then, tens of thousands have been killed and millions have been uprooted.
According to the United Nations, more than half of the population in South Sudan, about seven million, are in need of food aid. But it has been increasingly dangerous for aid groups to operate in the country: around 100 aid workers have been killed since December 2013.
Both President Kiir’s forces and rebel groups assaulted workers for accusations of them taking sides in the country’s civil war, Molly Phee, former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan, said at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Last month, the U.N. condemned South Sudan for abusing aid groups. According to Erol Yayboke, Deputy Director and Fellow for the Project on Prosperity and Development at CSIS, the country has become the most dangerous place in the world for aid workers.
Because of the complex situation, Kate Almquist Knopf, who served as director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an academic institution within the U.S. Department of Defense, called for Washington to reexamine its aid strategies and to, “Look at the political realities of assistance in South Sudan.” She also underscored the importance of new priorities and the need for a serious examination of the “culture of impunity” in the country.
According to the U.N., much of South Sudan’s actions against its people and aid workers could be considered war crimes. On July 13, the U.N. Security Council approved an arms embargo on the country by a narrow margin of votes.