Pro-South Sudan activists put pressure on President Kiir

Salva Kiir
Salva Kiir
Salva Kiir

The men who spearheaded US support for South Sudanese independence used the country’s second birthday to urge President Salva Kiir to end attacks on civilians.

An open letter from Roger Winter, Eric Reeves, John Predndergast and Ted Dagne strongly encourages Kiir to stem corruption and root out commanders that allow for attacks to continue.

[T]hese atrocities are not isolated incidents but among many deliberate measures taken by soldiers on the instruction of senior commanders and government officials. Some may argue that the failure here lies in the chain of command, but the evidence makes clear that these orders are indeed coming from senior commanders. We urge you to take swift and decisive action against not only those who carried out these heinous acts, but those who gave the orders.

And there must be justice. Crimes by government officials often go unpunished. Many attacks against civilians, including the killing of foreign businessmen, a teacher from Kenya, South Sudanese journalists, and many others, have gone unpunished. We have authoritative reports that government security forces have abused those who allow themselves and their cars to be searched. Many people, including government officials, have faced harassment and have been beaten up by security forces. Again, no one has been held accountable. This inevitably creates a climate of impunity.

The four men are a part of a group that turned a regular meeting at Otello’s restaurant in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle into a full fledged advocacy effort on behalf of South Sudan. Last year, Journalist Bec Hammilton recounted for Reuters the way the group formed and the influence the men wielded in Washington DC.

By the mid-nineties, five men – Dagne, Deng, D’Silva, Prendergast and Winter – were meeting regularly at Otello’s. Prendergast had been nicknamed the Council Member in Waiting because he liked to challenge the Emperor. Deng was referred to as the Diplomat, marking him as the least strident of the group. D’Silva, the most serious among them, went without a nickname.

The Economist summarizes the way that the members worked through the American political system.

Giving themselves nicknames like the “emperor” (Mr Dagne) they set about using their roles in successive American administrations and academia to push the cause of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, which later became South Sudan’s ruling party. Together Mr Reeves, the “deputy emperor”, and Mr Prendergast, who worked in President Bill Clinton’s administration before setting up Enough, were responsible for turning an obscure war in western Sudan into a movement to stop genocide in Darfur. Mr Dagne was as an adviser to President Kiir once the south voted to secede in 2010. Susan Rice, who now heads the State Department after a stint as ambassador to the UN, was an occasional diner at the council’s bistro meetings.

Given their close ties to South Sudan, will Kiir listen?

“His fledgling state needs all the friends it has,” says D.H.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.