New York, 16.Nov.2017; US ambassador to United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley Delivers Remarks on South Sudan at US Holocaust Memorial Museum, she blasted the government for putting the country in all out civil conflict, and inciting ethnic cleansing, raping women and use of other degrading forms of tortures.
President Trump asked me to visit the region out of a growing sense of alarm. This is a region that suffers far more from the acts of man than from the acts of God.
South Sudan, in particular, is a tragic case of shattered dreams and unrealized potential. It is the youngest country in the world, but the promise of its hard-fought independence is slipping away.
The government is engaged in "a brutal, protracted" military campaign against a fragmented opposition.
The divisions are tribal. Both sides are responsible for atrocities against civilians.
But the government is primarily responsible for ethnically-based killings and for deliberately blocking the delivery of humanitarian assistance to suffering people.
The realities of the South Sudan crisis are difficult to truly comprehend.
The violence has left two million South Sudanese displaced and two million more as refugees. Countless are dead. Millions are facing near famine conditions.
Thousands of children, some as young as seven years old, have been abducted or recruited by armed groups as child soldiers.
I knew these facts before I left and I was alarmed by them. But I’ll be honest with you. I was not prepared for the level of suffering that I saw. Nothing prepares you for it.
I had been to refugee camps before, for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey. But the South Sudanese refugees live in conditions that make the camps in Jordan and Turkey look like luxury resorts.
Entire families are living with nothing but a tarp over their heads. Women are giving birth on dirt floors – floors that have turned to mud now that the rainy season is here.
There is nothing that prepares you for the sobs of the South Sudanese women, nearly all of whom had been raped, sometimes repeatedly.
I have never before experienced anything quite like the dazed look in the eyes of children with no homes, no schools, and no hope for the future.
The effect of the atrocities experienced by the people of South Sudan is in the air in the camps; it surrounds you.
This is especially true of the women and the children. They have suffered disproportionately in this conflict. Not only can you see it, you can feel it.
Whenever I travel to difficult settings, I seek out the women to talk to, and often have events organized so I can listen to local women without any men in the room. I find the women are very honest about their situations, and I learn a lot from them.
At a refugee camp in Ethiopia, I met with a group of South Sudanese women who were almost completely broken by what they’d experienced. Their stories of sexual violence are beyond imaginable.
One woman told me about being gang raped. She told me about how the soldiers ripped her baby out of her arms and threw him into a fire. And then they forced her to eat the flesh of her own child.
And as she spoke, something even more heartbreaking happened: all of the 100-or-so women in the stifling building began to relive their own horror.
Their pain and anguish were catching. Soon all the women in the room were either crying or exchanging knowing glances that showed that they too had experienced the same sort of barbaric mistreatment.
A meeting that started out with me in a chair listening, ended up with me on the ground, hugging a sobbing woman who had experienced the kind of pain that no human being should ever experience.
Seasoned aid workers told us that, over many years working in conflict zones, they had never seen anything like the atrocities they had witnessed in South Sudan.
And the unspeakable violence that is occurring is not random. It is calculated and it is directed at innocent civilians. It is designed to convince women of their powerlessness. And it is designed to separate young boys from their parents and turn them into cold, remorseless killers.
There are many former child soldiers who are traumatized by what they have seen and what they have been forced to do.
In one particularly horrific case, there were two young South Sudanese boys – brothers. They were forced to watch their mother be tied to a tree and gang raped.
Afterward, the soldiers forced one brother to shoot his mother on her left side and the other brother to shoot her on the right side.
They were permitted to stop only when she died – died of the gunshot wounds her own sons had been forced to inflict on her.
You cannot witness something like this and not be deeply affected. No human being should have to live the way these people live. No mother should have the memories these mothers have. No child should feel the pain those two brothers felt.
But even in the midst of all the pain and all the suffering, there was dignity. South Sudanese refugees just want to be able to go home and live normal lives.
They want desperately to be productive and self-sufficient. The women make small crafts to sell. Some families sell food items from huts.
The mothers I met were worried more about their children than about themselves.
Above all, they were desperate for their children to be educated. Less than half of the school aged children in South Sudan are in classrooms. And in the camps, education is virtually non-existent.
The children wander around, some naked, some only partially clothed. Most of them don’t know how old they are. They are malnourished. They are bored. And they are surrounded by the consequences of hate.
In every camp we visited, we asked the children if there was one wish they could have come true, what would it be? In each and every case, they said they wanted to go to school.
Americans can always be counted on to try to make this wish come true – to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves. But the crisis in South Sudan is not only a humanitarian one.
We should help the people of South Sudan out of concern for not just their safety but our own safety as well.
Why do I say this?
Because this conflict is planting the seeds of future hate in the next generation. The reality is that all of the children we engaged with will be 18 one day. They will be adults.
And they’ll be uneducated, untrained, and resentful of the conditions they’ve been living in. They will be prime targets for recruitment by armed groups.
If we don’t do something about the way these kids are being raised in South Sudan, we might be dealing with them as adults on the battlefield.
We must take sides.
When I visited the refugee camp, I made sure to take pictures of the conditions I saw there in anticipation of my meeting the next day with South Sudanese President Salva .
My photos tried to do what the remarkable photos displayed here tonight succeed in doing: Capturing the pain, fear, and pride of the people in the camps.
As we drove through the guarded gates and layers of security to reach President office – past all the men with guns – I decided that what I had planned to say was too tame for a leader so bloodstained and isolated from his people. I was still angry from the conditions I had witnessed in the camps.
President is an ex-rebel leader. He fought for many years against the tyranny of the government of Sudan.
He understands suffering. He has had major hardship within his own family. For those reasons, the U.S. government at one time had high hopes for as a leader.
While I could have some sympathy for his past, there is only revulsion and disgust with what he has allowed to happen – and with what he has himself done – to the people of his country.
Our meeting ended up being an intense and emotional exchange. I showed him the pictures I had taken in the camps and told him he couldn’t deny what they represented.
His government and his soldiers have caused the suffering of millions of South Sudanese people. To his credit, he didn’t try to deny it.
But acknowledgement of evil is not enough. We have to take a side.
So, I made his choices as plain to him as I possibly could. I reminded him that the United States was instrumental in the creation of South Sudan.
I reminded him that we have invested well over $11 billion in his country and in him – and that we are not getting the return on investment that we had expected.
We thought we were investing in a free and fair society, where children and families would be safe. But South Sudan has become the opposite of that and and his government are largely responsible.
The United States is both generous and patient, but we are not without our limits. Entire generations are being lost in South Sudan.
Families are being destroyed. We cannot and will not look away.
What makes the situation so frustrating is that it is not hopeless. There is a way to end the violence in South Sudan. There is a way to resuscitate the 2015 peace agreement.
The leaders of that country need to take responsibility and seize this opportunity.
The United States will continue to do all we can to support the South Sudanese people, particularly those in greatest need.
I laid out a series of things we expect from President in the near future, and a series of things he will face if he does not deliver.
Time will tell if he makes good on his commitments. And time is short for him to do so.
But already, there has been a promising sign.
Yesterday, the United States got word that President has issued an order requiring free and unhindered access for humanitarian groups in South Sudan.
Now, has broken his promises before. So, again, time will tell. And again, we will judge him and his government by their actions, not their words.
But this is a welcome sign of potential relief for the people of South Sudan. We will be watching to see if their government lives up to its word.
In the meantime, the world needs to hear more about the horror the people of South Sudan continue to experience.