Nikki Haley abruptly evacuated from South Sudan camp, now visits Congo
By JOHN BACON | USA Today (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 26, 2017
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was in Congo on Thursday to press for free elections, one day after she was abruptly evacuated from a U.N. camp in South Sudan amid a turbulent demonstration against that country's leadership.
Haley is wrapping up a three-nation African tour that began in Ethiopia. In South Sudan, Haley was visiting a camp for more than 30,000 people displaced by the country's relentless civil war that has killed thousands and driven more than 2 million from their homes.
Hundreds of people lined the roads of the camp near the South Sudan capital of Juba, many gathering outside her meeting with reunited families to chant and call for peace, the U.N. said in a statement.
A smaller demonstration against President Salva Kiir grew violent, and an aide worker at the camp told the Associated Press that U.N. security guards fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. The United Nations said camp residents "became upset that (Haley) was not able to meet with them, due to time constraint."
The U.S. has been the primary benefactor to South Sudan's fledgling government since it gained independence from Sudan six years ago. Several billion dollars later, Haley has made it clear that the U.S. is growing impatient with Kiir and no longer trusts his government.
“We are disappointed by what we are seeing. This is not what we thought we were investing in,” Haley said. “What we thought we were investing in was a free, fair society where people could be safe and South Sudan is the opposite of that.”
South Sudan's ethnic strife pits Kiir's Dinkas against the Nuers, the second-largest ethnic group in the East-Central African nation of 12 million people. The rebel commander is Riek Machar, a Nuer and who served as vice president until Kiir fired him in 2013, prompting the civil war.
South Sudan’s government recruited 1,300 children to fight last year, bringing the total number of children armed for the war to more than 17,000 since 2013, the U.N. says.
“Our concern is for the children, these children who are getting into armed conflict as early as 9 years old, these children who are not being educated," Haley said. "Those are the future leaders of South Sudan.”
She said the U.S. and the world has seen the tragedy unfold across the country and wants to help. Healing, she said, will take "a very long time."
“We are not going to forget you," she said. "We are not going to put these issues away. We are not going to turn a blind eye to them."
Congo, with a population of almost 80 million, is also struggling with violence and unrest. The U.N. peacekeeping mission there totals more than 15,000 military personnel, the world's largest such mission.
The United Nations says a deteriorating humanitarian situation has left more than 8 million people — including 5.5 million children — in need of assistance. Almost 4 million people have fled their homes.
Haley is expected to meet with President Joseph Kabila on Friday and press him for an elections timetable. Kabila refused to step down in December at the conclusion of his second mandate. He is constitutionally barred from another term but says he will remain in power until elections, already delayed by the ruling party, are held.