Tag Archives: South Sudan

Will anyone protect the Rohingya?

 

Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office via Wikimedia Commons

Vincent A. Auger, Western Illinois University

Since August, the Rohingya, an ethnic minority in Myanmar, has faced what a United Nations official called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Recent reports describe a campaign by Myanmar security forces to drive the Rohingya from the country permanently. Hundreds of thousands have fled to camps in neighboring Bangladesh, creating a new refugee crisis.

This is exactly the type of atrocity that the United Nations vowed to combat in 2005, when it asserted a “responsibility to protect” civilian populations from genocidal violence. Yet, little has been done.

Why has “the responsibility to protect” failed, and can the Rohingya be helped?

Responsibility to protect

The “responsibility to protect” doctrine resulted from the humanitarian catastrophes of the 1990s: Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and especially Rwanda. The world struggled to balance respect for state sovereignty with the imperative to prevent the slaughter of civilians. In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty issued a report redefining the problem. It stated that states had primary responsibility to protect their populations. But, if they could not or would not, then that duty could be exercised by the international community.

This concept was affirmed by the United Nations at the 2005 World Summit. However, my research on the origins and implementation of the responsibility to protect has demonstrated that this consensus was superficial. Many states, including the United States and China, gave lip service to a “responsibility to protect,” but were unwilling or unable to implement it. The conditions under which the responsibility to protect could be invoked remain deliberately ambiguous.

Words in action: Libya and Cote d’Ivoire

Despite this tepid support, in 2011, the United Nations authorized two operations in countries where civilians were at risk.

In Cote d’Ivoire, United Nations peacekeeping forces intervened to remove the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, who had lost an election and was using the country’s security force to attack civilians in an attempt to remain in power. U.N. forces helped oversee a political transition and maintain security. This intervention was widely seen at the U.N. as a success.

The other intervention was in Libya, after the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi threatened to slaughter those who opposed his regime. The intervention – led by Britain, France and the United States – successfully prevented Gaddafi’s slaughter of civilians. But it also led to the collapse of his regime, his murder by rebel forces and continuing conflict in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Failure to protect

Despite humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, the responsibility to protect has not been used by the U.N. since 2011 to justify intervention. The Libya case helps to explain this: Once the intervening forces helped overthrow Gaddafi, Russia and China declared that the “responsibility to protect” was merely a pretext for the West to conduct regime change. Those countries have repeatedly vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria.

Implementing the “responsibility to protect” faces other challenges as well. One is that an intervention to protect civilians may encounter armed resistance from those who are committing the atrocities, as would likely be the case in Syria. A larger, more capable international military force would be necessary to defeat them. Many states will be deterred by the greater costs and risks of such an intervention.

Another challenge is that states and international organizations have multiple goals and priorities. They may not wish to jeopardize relations with the offending regime, or risk other national interests, in order to stop violence. They may even help the regime that is committing the atrocities, as the Russian government has done in Syria, to advance those interests.

Finally, a successful intervention may lead to a costly commitment to provide long-term security and relief – a “responsibility to rebuild,” so to speak. For most states, these potential costs of intervention far outweigh their willingness to act to save lives.

What can we do for the Rohingya?

All these challenges to implementing the responsibility to protect are evident in the Rohingya case. Myanmar authorities have resisted any international role in the crisis, raising the cost of potential intervention. In any case, other states have little interest in taking action. China is shielding Myanmar from pressure in the U.N. Security Council and is trying to pull Myanmar into its sphere of influence. President Trump has not made Myanmar a priority for American foreign policy. Russia, India and other states prefer to work with the regime to further their own interests in the region.

What can be done, then?

Economic and political sanctions against the Myanmar military are a possibility. But without Chinese participation, they would have limited effectiveness. Sanctions might also lead the Myanmar military to reverse recent democratic reforms in the country.

An alternative would be for the United States and other countries to sharply increase aid to Bangladesh, which is hosting the fleeing Rohingya civilians. They might also consider accepting some Rohingya as refugees. However, this could be problematic given the current debate on refugees in the United States and many other countries.

The ConversationIn the longer term, diplomatic and financial pressure, as well as the possibility of indictment for crimes against humanity, may convince Myanmar’s military leaders to cease the ethnic cleansing and allow some Rohingya to return. Unfortunately, no international cavalry is likely to ride to the Rohingya’s rescue.

Vincent A. Auger, Professor of Political Science, Western Illinois University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Poll: Most Americans Oblivious, But Not Uncaring, to Overseas Suffering

“Near-famine, which is affecting 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, is likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-14-2017

The Trump administration has proposed drastic cuts to humanitarian aid programs in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. (Photo: Gerry & Bonni/Flickr/cc)

The vast majority of Americans are “oblivious” to the fact that more than 20 million people are on the brink of starvation in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

A “staggering” 85 percent of Americans simply don’t know that these nations are facing such dire shortages of food and other necessary resources, IRC discovered. Continue reading

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From Rio, Olympic Refugee Team Urges Compassion for Displaced People

“It’s only a name to be a refugee”

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-3-2016

Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer on the Refugee Olympic Team.. Photo via Wikimedia commons

Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer on the Refugee Olympic Team.. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to imagine good news emerging from environmental chaos in Brazil and warfare around the globe, but a team of refugees competing at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this month stood in the spotlight on Tuesday, and took the opportunity to urge compassion for displaced people worldwide.

The 10 athletes on the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) were given a standing ovation as they joined the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“We are ambassadors for the other refugees. We cannot forget this chance that you gave us,” said Yiech Pur Biel, a track and field athlete originally from South Sudan. “We are not bad people. It’s only a name to be a refugee.” Continue reading

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Only 10 Countries in the Entire World Are Not Currently at War

By Claire Bernish. Published 6-9-2016 by The Anti-Media

A U.S. soldier stands guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaila oil field, 2 April 2003. Photo: US Navy (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

A U.S. soldier stands guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaila oil field, 2 April 2003. Photo: US Navy (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

United States — A troubling report by the Institute for Economics and Peace found a mere ten nations on the planet are not at war and completely free from conflict. According to the Global Peace Index 2016, only Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam are free from conflict. Iceland tops the list of most peaceful countries in the world, followed by Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Portugal, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, and Slovenia — while the United States ranked far lower, at 103. Palestine, placed in the index of 163 nations for the first time this year, ranked 148th.

War-torn Syria placed at the bottom of the list, lower than only South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Central African Republic, Ukraine, Sudan, and Libya. Continue reading

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Refugee Numbers Break New Record With ‘Millions Trapped in Conflict Zones’

New figures from Norwegian Refugee Council reveal 38 million people internally displaced in 2014 alone

Written by Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 7, 2015

An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya October 29, 2014. (Photo: United Nations/flickr/cc)

An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya October 29, 2014. (Photo: United Nations/flickr/cc)

As wars raged in 2014, an estimated 38 million people across the world were “forced to flee their homes by conflict and violence,” setting a new record high for internal displacement, according to just-released figures compiled by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC).

“Never in the last 10 years of IDMC’s global reporting, have we reported such a high estimate for the number of people newly displaced in a year,” said the organization, noting that their data indicate that, on average, 30,000 people fled their homes each day last year.

These figures, however, strictly reflect internal displacement—those who stay within state borders—and do not include refugees forced to leave their countries. Continue reading

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“There is no humanity here”

Aerial photograph of just one part of the Jamam camp in South Sudan, where some 36,000 people have fled to, following fighting near the border of Sudan's Blue Nile State, and South Sudan's Upper Nile State in the Greater Upper Nile region. Conditions are harsh and access to water is difficult, although aid agencies including UNHCR, Oxfam and Medecins Sans Frontieres are managing to make sure people receive an average of 6.5 litres of water a day – enough to meet basic needs.  April, 2013. Photo by Robert Stansfield/Department for International Development [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Aerial photograph of just one part of the Jamam camp in South Sudan, where some 36,000 people have fled to, following fighting near the border of Sudan’s Blue Nile State, and South Sudan’s Upper Nile State in the Greater Upper Nile region.
Conditions are harsh and access to water is difficult, although aid agencies including UNHCR, Oxfam and Medecins Sans Frontieres are managing to make sure people receive an average of 6.5 litres of water a day – enough to meet basic needs. April, 2013.
Photo by Robert Stansfield/Department for International Development [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

No one knows for certain exactly what happened. We do know that hundreds of people are murdered or missing, that security forces have disappeared from the area and hundreds of homes destroyed, the hospital has been raided with patients shot in their beds, and corpses line the streets of Malakal, the capital of oil producing Upper Nile state in South Sudan.

“There is no humanity here,” said Col. Jan Hoff, an officer in Norway’s army who has served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, according to a report from USA News.

He arrived with a heavily armed group from the UN that entered the city on Wednesday. They made their way to what remained of the hospital, counting the dead as they proceeded. Horrified, they were met with executed patients, supplies ransacked and flies everywhere as the stench of death hung in the air.

Image By Peter Fitzgerald [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image By Peter Fitzgerald [CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

South Sudan became the newest nation on earth just 31 months ago. As the new country emerged, the old politics remained instrumental in forming what would become an intense struggle for control. The government of President Salva Kiir and rebel groups loosely aligned behind sacked former vice president Riek Machar are in an all-out war, with civilians being disregarded by both. On January 23, a ceasefire was supposedly agreed to by both parties at peace talks in neighboring Ethiopia. The ceasefire was supposed to end more than a month of violence that left over 10,000 dead and another 800,000 people displaced. Most of the killing has been done by one ethnic group attacking another. South Sudan has 8 different ethnic tribes within its population of 9 million.

In a in-depth report, Time reveals before and after images of the destruction in Malakal. The amazing images and detailed report are worth your time to explore, review and absorb. The technology used for their report is a story within itself. They report, “The Satellite Sentinel Project is a joint venture comprising the Enough Project, the humanitarian group Not On Our Watch—co-founded by actor George Clooney—and the private satellite imagery vendor DigitalGlobe, which captures the images and provides analysis.” To view their images and coverage, click this link.

With wars brewing and civilians fleeing the area, concern now rises as to spring planting in the area. Without areas normally used for agriculture being prepared for growing, the threat of famine looms. People are running for their lives, not planting crops.

Any nation’s ruler, past or present, that would permit the murder and persecution of citizens to regain or retain power deserves nothing less than trial for crimes against humanity. Reminiscent of the Anfal genocides 26 years ago, the extermination of people in South Sudan must be stopped. We rise to support those who can accomplish this.

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