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U.N. Worries South Sudan Is On The Brink Of Genocide


Let's think back to 2011. The story then was the birth of a new nation, South Sudan. A place familiar with conflict gained independence. But two years later, more conflict, a new civil war. And now the U.N. worries the country's on the brink of genocide. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is struggling to convince her colleagues to do something, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The U.N. secretary general has been calling on the Security Council for months to impose an arms embargo on the government of Sudan and the rebels it's fighting. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power says the council hasn't delivered.


SAMANTHA POWER: The situation is not getting better. It's getting worse, and we're sitting on our hands as a council.

KELEMEN: She seemed to be trying to shock diplomats into action this week with graphic tales. One was very disturbing, as you're about to hear. Power spoke of a 28-year-old woman who saw her husband killed and saw armed men taking babies and beating women with them.


POWER: Babies used as clubs to beat their own mothers, rape, the execution of this one woman's husband - that is what she witnessed before getting to Uganda and the relative safety of a refugee camp.

KELEMEN: The U.N. says, since July, more than 380,000 people have fled South Sudan to Uganda. Ethnic hate speech is spreading, and government forces and rebels are mobilizing. South Sudan's envoy to the U.N. says the genocide warnings are exaggerated. Ambassador Power disagrees.


POWER: The people within the U.N. system whose job it is to sound the alarm have sounded it. History is going to show what each of us did, where each of us stood when the sirens were blaring.

KELEMEN: But the U.S. only came around as supporting an arms embargo recently, says Alan Boswell who's working on a book on South Sudan.

ALAN BOSWELL: There's a lot of face-saving going on right now in South Sudan.

KELEMEN: He has his doubts that an arms embargo or targeted sanctions will make much of a difference at this point.

BOSWELL: The real issue is not so much that you have a big, bad president and a big, bad rebel leader. But just - you have a really terribly botched state formation process. And no one's really had a good idea of how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

KELEMEN: South Sudan collapsed into civil war just two years after the U.S. helped it become a nation. And Boswell believes the war there will be a stain on the Obama administration's legacy.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.