It sounds like a familiar story. American citizens brutalized in Africa. Security officers from the United Nations incapable of protecting the Americans. The Americans call for help from the United States Embassy. No one comes to their aid. The United States government, led by Barack Obama, pretends that nothing happened. Or, at least pretends until it cannot pretend any more.
In the Daily Beast Christopher Dickey reports on recent events in South Sudan:
It’s been more than a month since soldiers in South Sudan, a country that gets more than a billion dollars a year in U.S. assistance, singled out American aid workers for beatings and abuse amid an orgy of theft, intimidation, and gang rapes.
The U.S. embassy in Juba knew what was going on when it was happening, but proved powerless to stop it. And the Obama administration’s public reaction? Nothing until the story finally broke Monday through Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press.
“The United States is outraged by reports of assaults and rapes of civilians,” began a statement by Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as if her office and the administration had just discovered what was going on in the capital of a country that the United States had helped win its independence five years ago.
So they send out U. N. Ambassador Samantha Power to express outrage. As Dickey notes, Power is being forced to pretend that she knew nothing about the events of last month.
At least, this time, the Obama government did not blame it on a video:
In fact, as Power conceded in her statement, on the day of the atrocities at a hotel complex called The Terrain, popular with foreign aid workers in the South Sudanese capital of Juba, the U.S. embassy was kept informed by victims and witnesses from the beginning.
“We are deeply concerned that United Nations peacekeepers were apparently either incapable of or unwilling to respond to calls for help,” said Power, who made her reputation in 2003 with her Pulitzer-winning book “A Problem From Hell” about the world’s failure to stop genocide in the Balkans and Rwanda.
Not only are we outraged, but we are deeply concerned. It's good to see the administration talking tough. That will surely prevent all similar occurrences in the future.
Want to know what happened, according to Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press? Dickey reports the gruesome details:
On July 11, the latest peace settlement between President Salva Kiir, whose supporters and soldiers are mostly from the Dinka ethnic group, and Vice President Riek Machar, whose core strength is with his Nuer people, was falling apart and fighting raged in the capital.
By mid-afternoon, it seemed that things were calming down, and people gathered at The Terrain thought they’d be safe. “We are not targeted,” they were told by at least one private security consultant, according to the AP.
But they were targeted, and very specifically. About 100 men broke through the compound gate, firing into it and prying it open with tire irons, according to one witness. Security guards armed only with shotguns fell back, and seem to have put up little or no resistance. The soldiers rampaged “door to door,” according to the AP report, taking money, phones, laptops, and car keys.
They were very excited, very drunk, under the influence of something, almost a mad state, walking around shooting off rounds inside the rooms,” one American witness told the AP. Most had on military fatigues and several bore the tiger-face shoulder patches of Salva Kiir’s presidential guard, he said.
They beat that same American with belts and rifle butts for about an hour, accusing him of hiding rebels. They fired bullets at his feet, according to AP, then sent him out of the compound: “You tell your embassy how we treated you,” one soldier told him as he fled to a nearby UN compound.
A woman aid worker, a foreigner whose nationality is not otherwise specified by the AP in an obvious effort to protect here identity, said a soldier pointed his AK-47 at her and told her, “Either you have sex with me, or we make every man here rape you, and then we shoot you in the head.”
Over the course of the next few hours, she told AP, she was raped by 15 men, some of them very violent, some of them boys who were almost apologetic as they were ordered to assault her. One of them told her, “Sweetie, we should run away and get married,” she recalled. “It was like he was on a first date…. He didn’t see that what he was doing was a bad thing.”
Several people had retreated to what they thought was a safe room behind a secure door and its adjacent bathroom, but the soldiers shot their way in.
“The soldiers then pulled people out one by one,” AP reports. “One woman said she was sexually assaulted by multiple men. Another Western woman said soldiers beat her with fists and threatened her with their guns when she tried to resist. She said five men raped her.”
Naturally, the victims contacted the United States Embassy, asking for help. At lot of good that did:
All during these horrors, phone calls and text messages were going out to the UN, to the U.S. embassy, to anyone who might be able to help. But for hours nobody came.
Chinese, Nepalese, and Ethiopian troops were serving with UN forces in the immediate vicinity, and an Ethiopian “Quick Reaction Force” mobilized—then stood down, for reasons still not fully explained.
The U.S. embassy, aware that the UN was unlikely to deploy without clearance from Salva Kiir’s military commanders, pressed them to send government soldiers to bring their own troops back into line. Eventually, hours later, they did, but three Western women and 16 hotel staff were left behind in the hotel, according to the AP report, and did not get out until the following morning with the aid of private security contractors.
The Obama administration has wanted to be involved in Africa. It has wanted to be involved in North Africa and in central Africa. Truth be told, it is not working out very well. Naturally, the story is being ignored by the media, because, frankly, it does not make the administration look very good or very competent.