WASHINGTON DC, United States, Feb 27 — Last week, the U.N. declared a famine in two counties of South Sudan, affecting more than 100,000 people, with a further million people on the brink of famine in the country.
On Upfront on Al Jazeera this weekend, host Mehdi Hasan asked South Sudanese politician Rebecca Garang who is to blame. “Of course it’s the leader,” she replied. “…because it is a manmade famine… He did not…ah, all of us, as the leaders of South Sudan, we did not lead our people properly.”
Garang is the widow of John Garang, the founder of the SPLM, and is widely considered to be the ‘mother’ of South Sudan. After fighting in the second Sudanese civil war, she went on to serve in Kiir’s cabinet but has since become one of his leading critics.
Garang warned recently that “a genocide is looming” in South Sudan. On Upfront, she put the blame on both President Kiir and his former vice president, Dr Riek Machar. “Our leaders are using the name of their tribes in order for them to cling to power,” she said.
The 2015 ceasefire between Kiir and Machar hasn’t held, even though there are now 11 000 UN troops in South Sudan. “So what do you do?” Hasan asked Garang. “Do you have a new peace process? Do you try recycling a ceasefire? Are you calling for some kind of foreign military intervention?”
“We are calling for a dialogue where the whole people of South Sudan are brought on the table so that they discuss the issues concerning them because their government is not doing anything,” she replied. President Kiir had similarly called for a dialogue, but she said, “He appointed himself to be the patron of the dialogue when he’s a party to the problem.”
“Are you calling for him to stand down: President Kiir?” Hasan clarified.
“Yes. He has to,” she said.
Hasan also grilled Garang on reports her late husband recruited thousands of child soldiers to fight for him; whether or not she had any regrets over pushing for an independent South Sudan, considering the subsequent fallout; and over her record as human rights advisor to Kiir, during a time when Human Rights Watch reported that government forces were responsible for extrajudicial killings and torture.