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The continuing crisis has not only led to widespread hunger, malnutrition, and disease, but also threatens the survival of a generation of South Sudanese.
The civil war raises grave economic, social, and security concerns for the future of the country and all of East Africa.
The world should be further alarmed by an announcement by the now exiled former first vice-president, Dr Riek Machar, that he intends to mobilise other opposition figures to take up arms to overthrow the regime of President Salva Kiir. This makes the prospect of another round of human suffering a disheartening reality.
To preempt this imminent pogrom, the international community, led by the African Union, should, as a matter of urgency, take charge and seek support from the United Nations to establish a transitional authority to run the government of South Sudan. Only a radical solution will save South Sudan from the abyss that it currently faces.
Given that the UN’s extended presence in South Sudan under successive one-year mandates has failed to adequately stabilise the country, the AU must seek to establish an authority to oversee the running of the country for an initial period of five years. The AU authority, with the support of the UN, should not only help alleviate the suffering of the people of South Sudan but should also build institutions that are resilient enough to weather any future shocks once the authority departs.
While some experts propose an executive mandate for the UN and AU to administer South Sudan jointly, with the UN in the lead, an Africa Union-led initiative is more likely to succeed.
Given that the people of South Sudan have seen the failure of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan to protect them from atrocities committed by soldiers loyal to both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, they are unlikely to accept an authority led by the UN.
An AU-led initiative will, of course, have to contend with the argument that South Sudan is a sovereign country that fought a fierce war for its independence, therefore, will not accept the rule of outsiders.
However, the corruption, human rights abuses, and anarchy orchestrated by the government of President Kiir, his former first vice-president Riek Machar, and their cronies have undermined the sovereignty of the people of South Sudan.
By installing an executive authority, the AU will be enhancing the rights of the people of South Sudan to live without mass rapes, torture, and hunger.
With the international community’s support to the UN mission in South Sudan currently at about $1 billion for 2016-2017, the financial resources for establishing a replacement executive authority can be easily mobilised.
The crisis in South Sudan threatens to spill over into the region, therefore, addressing it must remain a priority for the international community and the African Union.
The AU leadership has often been criticised for its inertia and lack of decisiveness. It must now show it is capable of resolving issues affecting the African continent, even if it means denouncing one of its members. The AU has a higher obligation to offer hope to the people of South Sudan.
The writer is a graduate student at George Washington University in the United States