An article by Somini Sengupta on the NewYorkTimes entitled In South Sudan, Mass Killings, Rapes and the Limits of U.S. Diplomacy focuses on Samantha Power’s role with the recent civil war in South Sudan. The perspective shared by the author is that Samantha Powers, US Ambassador to the UN, was not able to properly use diplomacy to prevent mass atrocities within South Sudan.
Ms. Power’s supporters agree that she has done quite enough during her 3-year tenure with the Obama Administration. She has had a key role in dismantling Syria’s use of chemical weapons and imposing sanctions on North Korea. She has continued to use her position to discuss such matters. In fact, it was only a few months ago that she went to the Security Council and asked “Is there no execution of a child that gets under your skin? Is there literally nothing that shames you?” in response to her claims that Iran, Syria, and Russia all share responsibility for the killing of the civilians within Aleppo.
Critics say however that Ms. Powers has used her position only for theater, and cites her failure to impose an arms embargo within South Sudan. The fact of the matter is that South Sudan needs an Arms Embargo now more than ever. The country is ethnically divided after a civil war that broke out three years ago due to a conflict between President Salva Kiir and his former vice President, Riek Machar. United Nations Investigators say that 17,000 children have recently been recruited to fight an oncoming war and that the ethnic divides have caused for over three million people to leave their homes. To impose the arms embargo on South Sudan now would most likely halt another genocide within a Sudanese nation, and it is dauntingly becoming close.
However, Ms. Powers has very little to do with all of this. When the United Nations Security Council voted for an Arms Embargo, there were only 7 votes in favor of such an action, which is 2 votes away from that which is needed. Samantha Powers took this hit quite well warning the Security Council that there would be a cost for imposing “no cost” on South Sudan combatants from carrying out another genocide.
We can only hope that Trump’s new Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Hailey will be able to be as dutiful as Ms. Powers. That she will be able to call the UN out on the atrocities that it allows to take place. However, given that Ms. Hailey has little experience with international affairs, the chances of this is very little.