U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement during a Full Committee hearing titled: "South Sudan's Broken Promise?" Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
I, like all of the members of our committee, we're gravely concerned with the ongoing crisis that we see unfolding in South Sudan.
When I was the Committee's Ranking Member, I had the honor of co-chairing a fact-finding mission to Sudan with then House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, which included a site visit to an internally displaced persons camp in Darfur and a meeting with Salva Kiir, the President of Southern Sudan. There, we saw first-hand the dire conditions that this horrific conflict has brought to the people of this region.
And as we watched the long-awaited independence ceremony following the 2011 referendum, we were all hopeful that South Sudan could achieve a stable and durable democracy. But it was clear that South Sudan's referendum and independence would not mark the end of this crisis, but that harder work still remained ahead.
Education, good infrastructure -- those are keys toward building a successful South Sudan, but it will require, as we know, a lot of time and resources to change conditions in the country that is plagued by deep-rooted tribal tensions, by poverty, by underdevelopment.
South Sudan has one of the most fertile soils in Africa, yet only a small percentage of that soil is being cultivated. It has the potential to be the "food basket" for Africa, which would help it in becoming self-sufficient and becoming prosperous.
As the highest donor country, we have put immense political capital and U.S. resources into South Sudan. So I ask you: What efforts is USAID making to improve literacy, to improve transportation, to improve its infrastructure programs?
Also, a prolonged war in South Sudan, would lead to massive flows of refugees, which could destabilize the entire region. Just yesterday we saw this sad report: 200 civilians or more, many of them women and children, died as a result of trying to flee across a river on a raft. This tragedy underscores the grim reality that the Sudanese people are facing daily.
We're also wary of foreign governments investing in South Sudan's oil industry. South Sudan is rich in natural resources, as we've discussed, so China and other countries who have invested there may view this conflict as an opportunity to expand their influence. Given our vested interest in South Sudan, losing influence in this region would be a severe blow to our U.S. national security interests. So I ask: If the situation deteriorates, how can we secure our interests in South Sudan?
Despite the great challenges that are facing South Sudan, I think that we all remain hopeful that the world's youngest country will unite, will move forward toward building a stable and prosperous future for its people. South Sudan has great potential. Potential to become a true success story on the continent that can be a model for other developing countries to emulate, and we hope and we pray and we will work so that this conflict will be resolved in a prompt and peaceful manner.
And so I ask about USAID and the efforts that we're making on literacy, transportation, and infrastructure in South Sudan; and what are we doing to secure our interests in South Sudan, with all of these competing countries being invested there?