Yesterday, I presented on a National Endowment for Democracy panel on “Fostering Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights in Africa Through Security Sector Assistance.” Video of the event can be found here and links to the papers we presented are below:
- Christopher Holshek from the Alliance for Peacebuilding presented on Mali’s Teachable Moment: The Primacy of Civil Authority in Security Sector Development and Assistance and on People Power (i.e., Human Security).
- I presented on the study I worked on last year while on assignment at the Center for Complex Operations on The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership: Building Partner Capacity to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism.
- COL Daniel Hampton from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies presented on Creating Sustainable Peacekeeping Capability in Africa.
During the panel, we touched on the Presidential Policy Directive 23 on Security Sector Assistance, released by the Obama Administration last spring. Although the ends of PPD-23 are stated in the factsheet, little is known about its ways and means. Perhaps the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (August 4-6, 2014) might offer additional details on the implementation of PPD-23 as it relates to Africa.
On May 16, South Sudan commemorated the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). On top of fighting a 22 year-long war that secured South Sudan’s independence last year, the SPLA will now protect the country in the event that the low-intensity conflict with Sudan escalates. While South Sudan’s security forces had already espoused a culture of impunity as a result of their role in the country’s creation, so long as the conflict with Sudan remains unresolved, the SPLA will have a pretext to allow this culture to persist.
This means that the SPLA will continue to suffer the legacy of a liberation army, and its human rights violations will continue. Yes, we have heard about indiscriminate violence in areas where the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) and the resurgent White Army have operated. But the SPLA, South Sudan Police Service (SSPS), and other organs of the state security apparatus have also abused civilians as they go about their daily routines in the new state. Civilians have been:
- Executed after a driver failed to stop while the flag was being lowered at the Dr. John Garang mausoleum in Juba
- Detained and beaten for reporting on a protest in which the security forces had indiscriminately fired into the crowd in Bentiu
- Brutally beaten and almost blinded after arriving at the airport in Wau
When we talk about what South Sudan needs/doesn’t need to protect itself from Khartoum, we shouldn’t take our eye off this underlying human rights issue within the security forces. I hope that when the SPLA celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, that its mission to protect South Sudan’s territorial integrity would have evolved to include protecting her citizens as well.