Civil war, chaos and famines have made South Sudan the starting point of the largest refugee crisis in Africa. Millions of people in the country are in need. Foreign Minister Gabriel wants to ensure that aid provided by the international community reaches these people.
Sigmar Gabriel travelled to South Sudan on Thursday (10 August). He is the first German foreign minister to visit the country since it became independent. In the capital Juba he met with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and United Nations Special Representative David Shearer.
South Sudan only became independent in 2011 and is the newest country in the world. However, it has collapsed since independence. Revenue from the country’s large oil deposits has never reached the population. Brutal violence between opposing ethnic groups kept spiralling out of control, and a civil war has been raging since 2013. Government troops and rebels are alleged to have committed the most egregious human rights violations. Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes. The severe drought in the spring dramatically worsened the crisis in the country. Over a million people have fled to neighbouring Uganda. Hundreds of thousands are seeking refuge in remote parts of the country or United Nations refugee camps. “After so many years of war, South Sudan truly deserves to finally live in peace,” Gabriel said in the capital Juba. The ongoing violence and poorly functioning state apparatus stand in the way of humanitarian aid reaching the population. “It is often extremely dangerous here for the staff of international aid organisations,” Gabriel said.
Aid must reach the starting point of the refugee crisis
During his visit to Uganda the previous day (9 August), Foreign Minister Gabriel had gained a first-hand impression of the situation facing refugees in Uganda and promised the country help in taking in people from South Sudan. Gabriel then travelled on to the starting point of the refugee crisis. In his talks in the South Sudanese capital Juba, he called for the path to be cleared for larger supplies of humanitarian aid. Bureaucracy in the government apparatus and corrupt security forces have repeatedly blocked aid supplies.
More humanitarian aid from Germany
Germany is working on many levels to alleviate the plight of the people in South Sudan and to stabilise the country. The German Government has increased humanitarian aid for the country to 90 million euros this year. Germany is also providing up to 50 Bundeswehr soldiers to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which Gabriel will visit in Juba.
The parties to the conflict must restart negotiations
However, there will only be hope for the people in South Sudan once a ceasefire is finally upheld. To date, neither side has been particularly active in implementing the peace agreement negotiated in 2015. In his talks with South Sudanese President Kiir, Gabriel encouraged the Government and armed opposition to return to the negotiating table. “All of the parties to the conflict must finally start thinking about the good of the Government and not only their own interests,” Gabriel said after his talks with Kiir. Germany also wants the human rights violations committed during the conflict to be addressed by a court of justice yet to be established in the country.