WASHINGTON Jan 15 U.S. lawmakers expressed deep
frustration on Wednesday over the wave of violence in South
Sudan, questioning whether it made sense for Washington to
continue sending hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the
Four weeks of fighting, often along ethnic lines, has been
ringing alarm bells in Washington over the prospect that the
conflict could spiral into full-blown civil war, spawning
atrocities or making South Sudan the world's next failed state.
U.S. Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee, called the latest fighting "infuriating," and
blamed it largely on South Sudanese leaders' unwillingness to
build an inclusive state.
"It appears that the greatest threat to South Sudan
post-independence is South Sudan itself," the California
Republican said at a hearing on the turmoil.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a similar
hearing last week, at which lawmakers from that chamber
similarly said the country risks losing U.S. aid if its
government and rebels do not end a wave of violence.
Washington has spent billions of dollars - congressional
aides estimated $600 million per year - to help build the
fledgling nation, including allowing weapons sales to its
government and providing security training for its armed forces.
Unlike many African countries, South Sudan enjoys the strong
interest of a broad range of U.S. lawmakers, who backed the push
by largely Christian and African southern Sudan to split from
Muslim- and Arab-dominated northern Sudan and form the world's
youngest state three years ago.
HEARING FROM CONSTITUENTS
But both Republicans, who hold the majority of seats in the
House, and Democrats, who hold a majority in the Senate, are now
questioning that support.
"We're starting to hear it more and more in our districts,
that we've put so much time, attention, money into this
situation ... and the outcomes seem to be terrible," said
Representative Juan Vargas, a California Democrat.
Republican Representative Ted Yoho of Florida said
Washington would do better to emulate China, which does not
donate to South Sudan as the United States does, but is
nonetheless the country's largest trading partner with major
stakes in its oil industry.
U.S. officials said President Barack Obama's administration
is putting pressure on both sides as well as on South Sudan's
neighbors to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.
"Neither the United States nor the international community
will accept the armed overthrow of the democratically elected
government of South Sudan," said Linda Thomas-Greenfield,
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs.
She said the international community is looking at options,
including sanctions against individuals deemed responsible for
the crisis, to hold accountable anyone responsible for human
rights violations or blocking efforts to achieve peace.
"They are on both sides, within the government as well as
those anti-government forces," she said.
The fighting since Dec. 15 has pitted President Salva Kiir's
SPLA government forces against rebels loyal to former Vice
President Riek Machar, bringing the oil-exporting country close
to civil war.
At least 1,000 people have been killed, with some estimates
as high as 10,000, and more than 200,000 have been displaced.
Oil exports - key to South Sudan's economy - have plummeted,
adding to regional instability.
On Wednesday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni admitted for
the first time to helping Kiir fend off the rebellion. Museveni
said Ugandan troops had this week helped defeat rebels outside
Juba, and some had been killed in battle. Museveni also blamed
Machar for turning political differences into a military
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, editing by G Crosse)