By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda
February 27, 2017 (SSB) — South Sudan on Monday February 20, 2017 was declared to be facing imminent famine unless something is done to save people from hunger. The cause of famine or hunger was said to have its origin from the action of man thus, the term “man-made hunger or famine.”
The fact that millions of people of South Sudan are facing serious threats from death due to a “man-made” tragedy, a fact which is acknowledged by Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairman of South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics, on behalf of the Government, who said that some parts of the northern Greater Unity region “are classified in famine, or … risk of famine.”
In addition, Aid Agencies said that one hundred thousand (100,000) people are affected by the famine, which threatens another one million people in the coming months. As the press statement released jointly by the World Food Programme (WFP), UN children’s agency UNICEF and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), it is observed in that statement that—”A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger. The situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted more than three years ago,”
It is clear that people of South Sudan are now in more danger than ever. Millions if not thousands of South Sudanese are going to die unless something is done to stop hunger on time. Yet what is clear is that this catastrophe is caused by man due to the greed for power and wealth that cause man to be corrupt. This is why the famine in South Sudan has been classified as “man-made famine”. Then, the question is: what does the “man-made famine or hunger” means who why does the man makes hunger to other human being?
To begin with, a famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies. When the scarcity of food is caused by the action of human beings which would have been avoided then such a famine is called “manmade famine”. Hence, in the case of South Sudan it is manmade famine as the Government solely responsible for the current hunger crisis caused by war.
Due to the manmade hunger in South Sudan there is now regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Therefore, the question is: who is that man in South Sudan who makes famine to kill our people?
The answer is simple and straightforward, Man is government and the rebels. The government was to blame for causing the war in Juba while rebels are to blame for refusing to accept peace but continuing to violate peace agreement or cease-fire. These two groups deliberately made the hunger facing South Sudan in the following ways—
They corrupt the country by siphoning all the national resources abroad and leaving the country in tatters, then after that they turned against each other. For instance, the heads of both government and rebels are living in luxurious lives in Uganda and Kenya and abroad as citizens are wallowing in miasmas of the valley of hunger or famine.
In this respect, corruption is one of the obvious factors that have caused the current hunger facing South Sudanese, which supports the argument that the famine in South Sudan is manmade one. The Sentry Report entitled: War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the looting and destruction in South Sudan September 2016 supports the above corruption allegations as it explains how the top Government officials and top rebels commanders have looted the country to build for themselves wealth of empire leaving citizens in devastating hunger.
The Sentry report stated that the proximate cause of the brutal civil war in South Sudan was a falling out between the country’s top politicians: President Salva Kiir Mayardit and deposed Vice President Riek Machar Teny. The report, however, clearly states that South Sudan’s civil war is not the result of a blood feud between two men, conventional explanations notwithstanding.
The report further says that the key catalyst of South Sudan’s civil war has been competition for the grand prize control over state assets and the country’s abundant natural resources between rival kleptocratic networks led by President Kiir and Vice President Machar.
The same Sentry report further points out that leaders of South Sudan’s warring parties manipulate and exploit ethnic divisions in order to drum up support for a conflict that serves the interests only of the top leaders of these two kleptocratic networks and, ultimately, the international facilitators whose services the networks utilize and on which they rely
In addition, the Sentry report highlights the link between systemic corruption and violent conflict, including the mass atrocities committed during the civil war. The Sentry report identifies the top government officials who among others include—President Kiir; Vice President Machar; Gen. Paul Malong Awan, the Chief of Staff of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA); South Sudan’s armed forces; Gen. Malek Reuben Riak, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the SPLA for Logistics who is in charge of military procurement; and Gen. Gabriel Jok Riak, a field commander under sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.
The allegations in Sentry report as discussed above are also confirmed by other sources which points out the fact that corruption in South Sudan is among the worst in the world (source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). It has been observed and the Sentry Report repeats the same accusation that the top officials or nation’s elites have developed a kleptocratic system that controls every part of the South Sudanese economy.
Because of the kleptocratic system, corruption flourishes as was seen in 2014 when South Sudan was ranked fifth on Transparency International’s list of most corrupt nations, preceded only by Somalia, North Korea, Sudan, and Afghanistan (see; Bartlett, Evan. “The most corrupt countries in the world, ranked in order”. The Independent. Zeitvogel, Karin; Biajo, Nabeel (Dec 3, 2014);“South Sudan Seen as One of World’s Most Corrupt Nations”. Voice of America) and it was ranked the most corrupt in East Africa recently.
In addition, the major corruption scandal since the beginning of self-rule was “Dura Saga,” of which no one was punished for such scandal. Though, President Salva Kiir Mayardit has repeatedly declared that his government is actively fighting corruption, but he contradicts himself by firing those working in his government who acknowledges that corrupt exists. This is why on April 12, 2013, he fired Elias Wako Nyamellel, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, “for acknowledging that South Sudan is corrupted and ‘rotten to the core.'” The problem of corruption in South Sudan is compounded by the serious lack of transparency in South Sudanese government records and business information as requests for official data can be arbitrarily turned down with impunity.
Corruption as discussed above is one of the major causes of war in South Sudan. Then the war becomes a sole cause of hunger or famine due to the fact that the tradition farming or way of living has been disrupted by militias on both sides who rape, loot and kill civilians with impunity, which renders people helpless. Hence, it is true to say that the famine in South Sudan is manmade one.
Furthermore, according to the Article by Dinfin Mulupi entitled: The cost of war: How the South Sudan conflict is impacting the entire East Africa(see; http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/the-cost-of-war-how-the-south-sudan-conflict-is-impact on ’15 January 2015′, the civil war is likely to make South Sudan a ‘failed state’ as statistics show that about 180 health facilities have so far been destroyed or are no longer functioning at a time about 235,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition.
In addition, Dinfin Mulupi points out that, human rights organizations warn that the country is on the verge of genocide, accusing forces aligned to both Kiir and Machar of multiple atrocities such as gang rapes, massacres, and recruitment of child soldiers. Since South Sudan economy has faded. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) statistics estimate that the economy contracted by at least 15% last year. All these are root causes of famine, hence the phrase, “manmade famine”.
To make the matters worse, the civil war has slashed oil production by a third to 160,000 barrels a day and made it harder for citizens to access food and basic needs. Because of shortage in oil production, the United Nations (UN) had previously warned that about 6.4 million people in South Sudan would be facing food insecurity between January and March of 2015 noting nearly $1.81bn would be needed to combat the crisis during 2015.
In indeed, some parts of South Sudan are now declared to be famine stricken areas due the fact that the war caused by leaders of South Sudan has resulted into human sufferings and costs because of hunger and disease that cause death. The famine and diseases caused by war are going to have significant longer-term impacts on South Sudanese. As it has been estimated, the effects of hunger on labour productivity could mean a further $6bn in lost GDP (in South Sudan) if the conflict were to last for more five years.
In spite of the immense sufferings of innocent citizens, South Sudanese leaders and their children are just enjoying on riches acquired at the expense of the blood of South Sudanese as citizens are kept by wall of hatred created by both leaders in their quest for unbridled wealth and power.
Leaders of South Sudan who are in Government and in rebels have built multi-million dollars houses in neighbouring countries which proves that war was intended as a way of destroying the development of South Sudanese people and to be a means of enriching individual leaders at the expense of poor citizens.
In fact, their actions and famine they have caused to South Sudanese constitute a crime against humanity. Hence, the top leaders, both in rebels and the government should be held accountable for causing unnecessary sufferings to citizens of South Sudan. Besides, there is a need for the international community to do more to pressure South Sudanese leaders to restore peace in the country and provide justice for citizens of South Sudan who are trapped between the walls of corruption and tentacles of corrupt leaders.
In summary, as it can be understood in the above explanation, the famine was caused by war and therefore it is true to conclude that it is a manmade famine in person of the government and rebels. Thus, in order to address the negative economic impacts of war, there is a need for peace and when peace is restored, the resources should be distributed equitably in order to boost economic growth, prioritize infrastructure development and agriculture, and promote private sector development.
Moreover, there is a need for the establishment of strong judicial system that will help establish the rule of law that is able to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of oil and mineral resources, and all government expenditure.
In addition, the government should break with tradition and not repeat past behaviour when it borrowed substantial monies from oil companies operating in the country without disclosing the terms of the loans.
NB//: the author is the Human rights law practising in Uganda and can be reached through: email@example.com;+256783579256