'They're bastards': Dutch Minister calls out South Sudan leaders over famine

Lilianne Ploumen gives a press conference at the opening of international conference 'she Decides' in Brussels, Belgium, 01 March 2017. Source: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

UNICEF says that nearly 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from starvation in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Dutch Minister for International Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen isn’t one for holding back.

“The leaders of South Sudan are bastards who starve their own people,” she told Dutch TV station RTL4 this week.

“The people of South Sudan have been abandoned by their leaders, left in the lurch, and they need help desperately,” she said.

The outspoken politician made the comments during a nationwide campaign which has seen the Dutch government and the public donate tens of millions of euros to UNICEF and Dutch NGOs as they struggle to address four major famines.

UNICEF says that nearly 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from starvation in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. 

While few have stated their views on South Sudan’s leaders in terms as strong as Minister Ploumen, the Dutch politician isn’t alone in blaming South Sudan’s own government.

According to Reuters, a confidential UN report said the government should he held responsible for the famine, with President Salva Kiir using millions of dollars in oil revenue to back his forces in an ongoing civil war.

President Kiir also came in for criticism from UN Secretary General António Guterres in a report to the UN Security Council last week.

“All the optimism that accompanied the birth of South Sudan has been shattered by internal divisions, rivalries and the irresponsible behaviour of some of its leaders,” the Secretary General said.

“One hundred thousand people are enduring famine, 1 million are on the verge of that fate, and 5.5 million may be severely food insecure by this summer,” he said.

The UN says the situation has been driven ongoing conflict and a drought which had created the world’s “fastest growing refugee crisis.”

“There is a strong consensus that South Sudanese leaders need to do more to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of the country’s people, who are among the poorest in the world,” Secretary General Guterres said.

Minister Ploumen made headlines around the world earlier this year with the promise to ‘counter’ Donald Trump’s anti-abortion foreign aid policy with a world-wide fund to finance women’s health services.

But despite the success and popularity of Ploumen’s ‘She Decides’ initiative, her days in the job are numbered.

While the politician's personal popularity helped her leapfrog a candidate in her own Labour party to win a seat in recent Dutch elections, the party has been reduced to minor-party status and is unlikely to be included in an eventual coalition government.

'Klootzak' in Dutch is a commonly used derogatory term in the Netherlands, equivalent to 'bastard' or 'a----hole'.

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