National Security

Frank Wolf Calls on Obama Administration to Send Former Presidents to South Sudan

Thousands have died in the conflict

South Sudanese Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin and Secretary of State John Kerry
South Sudanese Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin and Secretary of State John Kerry / AP

Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) is calling on the Obama administration to send former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to South Sudan to help end mass ethnic violence.

Wolf said on Wednesday that the conflict is eerily reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago:

At press conference on Capitol Hill, Wolf relayed a conversation he had on Monday with an expert on the region who had just been in South Sudan, saying, "I heard of civilians, including women and children, indiscriminately targeted and killed.  I learned of houses of worship turned from places of sanctuary to mass graves.  I was told of ethnic divisions that now run so deep they could take a generation to heal."

Wolf also showed graphic photos of the atrocities, including one of a pile of bodies from the recent massacre in Bentiu.  Wolf said he heard this morning that another attack in Bentiu could be imminent.

"Today, I stand before you as concerned as I have ever been about the state of affairs in South Sudan and the potential for the recent violence to spiral into genocide—a genocide that could defy even the horrors of Rwanda given the oil reserves that are in play," Wolf said.

Wolf said the United States has moral obligation to help.  "America helped give birth to South Sudan," Wolf said. " . . .  President Obama, you must not allow this to continue.  Call on your predecessors to immediately engage in this crisis before more innocent blood is shed.  Failure to act will be a stain on your administration’s legacy and a blot on your conscience."

Thousands have died in the conflict that pits President Salva Kiir’s Dinka tribe against rebel forces composed of former Vice President Riek Machar’s Nuer people. Rebel fighters have been urged to rape women of specific ethnicities and attack those seeking refuge in hospitals, mosques, and Catholic churches. Residents in the ethnic Dinka town of Bor recently killed dozens of Nuer people taking shelter at a United Nations base.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday warned of a possible genocide in South Sudan and threatened sanctions against the leaders of the warring factions.