Listen to the Alarm Bells

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© UNHCR/Amelia Shepherd-Smith

“Still, at its heart, the Rwandan story is the story of the failure of humanity to heed a call for help from an endangered people.” – Lt. General Roméo Dallaire

Listen to the alarm bells. Do you hear them? They rang for Rwanda, and we did not listen. They’ve rung for Syria for some time now, leaving the people of Aleppo wondering where we are. They now ring for South Sudan. Will we respond?


As the world is focused on Aleppo—with good reason—South Sudan is on the brink of genocide and no one is watching. The world’s youngest country falls into the trap of forgotten conflicts, overshadowed and set aside to be dealt with later. The problem is, later is never really an option. Later is when something becomes too big to deal with, too complicated to fix.

According to the UN Commission on South Sudan, there is a “steady process of ethnic cleansing underway in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages.” Ban Ki Moon, departing UN Secretary General, accused South Sudanese leaders, including former Vice President Riek Machar, of “manipulating ethnicity for political gain.”

This week, Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, addressed a special session of the UN Human Rights Council. She was there to discuss the dangerous situation in the country, and to explain to the council the crucial moment we are in as an international community. There is still time for us to stop the violence before it escalates any further. Before it becomes a full-on genocide.

In her address, Sooka detailed the horrific extent to which rape is being used as a weapon of war, describing “the levels of gang rape in this conflict as epic” (70% of the women in the Civilian Protection Camps have reported being raped; 78% had been forced to watch violent sexual attacks). She underscored that the violence is ethnically motivated, that civilians are being slaughtered, and that children are being forced into the role of child soldiers.

This is not a case ofoh, things might get bad in South Sudan.” Things are bad, and they are about to get a whole lot worse. As Sooka explained, “to be frank, we’re running out of adjectives to describe the horror.”

As it stands, The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) puts the current number of refugees who have fled the violence at 1,263,681. In October alone, people were fleeing at a rate of 3,500 per day. Per day. The death toll is rising, and the worry is that once the rainy season ends it will only get worse.

Still awaiting the Regional Protection Force (RPF) approved in August by the Security Council, and seeing the expulsion of international aid workers, as well as the silencing of independent media, the warning signs are clear for the people of South Sudan. It is only a matter of time.

We stand now at a defining moment. Will we as an international community live up to our responsibility and stop a looming genocide? Or, will we continue to wait and see as the people of South Sudan pay the price?





Listen to the alarm bells. #SouthSudan is on the brink of genocide. Will you act? cc: @POTUS @AmbassadorPower @UN


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