Rape, murder, famine — and $2.1 million for K Street PR, the Whitman behind South Sudan Government

The South Sudanese government turned to Washington, D.C., PR firms to bolster its image amid widespread conflict, poverty and human rights abuses.

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South Sudan latest human rights violator to buy image makeover in Washington

By Erin Quinn

In this file photo taken Jan. 19, 2016, displaced people walk next to a razor wire fence at the United Nations base in the South Sudanese capital of Juba. A U.N. report this year said South Sudan is suffering from “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world.” Jason Patinkin/AP

The South Sudanese government turned to Washington, D.C., PR firms to bolster its image amid widespread conflict, poverty and human rights abuses. Share this story:
By almost any objective measure, the fledgling nation of South Sudan is an unmitigated disaster — reeling from a violent power struggle that’s left an estimated 50,000 people dead just in the past three years. Last week, as the country turned five, renewed factional violence reportedly killed as many as 270 more and displaced thousands before leaders agreed to a ceasefire on Monday.

While opposition forces are responsible for some of the historical bloodshed, South Sudanese government forces “bore the greatest responsibility” for human rights violations in 2015, according to a United Nations report. Those government forces have raped and murdered civilians, recruited child soldiers and looted civilian property.

Meanwhile, more than 5 million people in South Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the World Food Programme’s estimate, and many of them face “unprecedented levels of food insecurity,” say U.N. agencies. One in five South Sudanese have fled their homes, according to international development organization Mercy Corps.

But while the South Sudanese government largely claims it doesn’t have enough money to fix these problems, the struggling government was able to spend $2.1 million on Washington, D.C., lobbying and public relations firms from 2014 through the end of 2015 — $2.1 million to buff up its image, keep U.S. aid flowing and stave off harsher U.S.-backed sanctions in response to its atrocities.

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