kiirandmacharKudos to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) for speaking out on the crisis in South Sudan that is threatening literally millions of innocent people with starvation.

On Tuesday, Chairman Royce publicly urged the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on the leaders of both sides of the conflict that has ripped the world’s youngest country apart.  The conflict has already killed 10,000 and displaced over a million men, women and children. If action is not taken, nearly 4 million people face alarming levels of food instability and 50,000 children are at risk of starving to death.

In a letter  to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, Chairman Royce said the United Nations must quickly sanction the South Sudanese government and opposition forces “to send a clear message that the international community will not tolerate violations of the cessation of hostilities and the derailing of the May 9th Agreement.”

The Obama administration is in an excellent position to heed this call as it will soon take the Chairmanship of the UN Security Council in September. But, President Obama doesn’t need to wait for the UN. The U.S. imposed sanctions on two people on both sides of the conflict back in May. It could immediately expand these sanctions as it urges others to do so.

The international community recognizes the gravity of the situation: Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, head of the regional group, IGAD, which is leading mediation efforts recently said that there was unanimous agreement that the war in South Sudan “has to stop and stop very, very quickly”. He reiterated the threat of “punitive measures” but IGAD has yet to levy sanctions.

Alarmed by the situation, members of the United Nations Security Council were on the ground last week in South Sudan. But while they’ve threatened sanctions and punitive actions in the wake of missed deadlines and broken promises, nothing has been done. The failure to hold the warring parties accountable now risks the lives of millions.

It is past time for action.

Chairman Royce should immediately urge his colleagues in both the House and Senate to join him in the call for sanctions. It is time for the United States and the world to hold the leaders of South Sudan fully accountable.

Each day that passes without a political solution is a day closer to an all-out famine. Aid agencies say South Sudan could be headed for the worst famine since the mid-1980s, when malnutrition swept through East Africa, killing over a million people.

The millions of innocent victims in harm’s way in South Sudan cannot wait.

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UN Photo/Albert González Farran

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