A cease-fire needed to allow talks to proceed has been elusive.
Three years after an historic referendum that set southern Sudan on a path to independence following years of civil war, the region is again rocked by violence. Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes due to political and ethnic fighting that erupted last month.
Regional leaders are pressing for peace talks and a political settlement between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, but a cease-fire needed to allow those talks to proceed has been elusive, hinging on demands to which neither side seems ready to agree.
Although the fighting started in December, the roots of the conflict go back much further. Political, economic and ethnic tensions have long simmered in region and now fuel the current conflict. The crisis, however, can only be resolved at the conference table, not on the battlefield. Continued fighting threatens the nation's fragile economy, benefitting neither side and harming the South Sudanese people.
The United States strongly supports the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s efforts to find a peaceful solution through talks being held in Addis Ababa. As we work with our international partners to end the fighting and find a political solution to the crisis, pressure must be brought on those actors fueling the conflict, particularly those who block a way towards peace. Both government and anti-government forces have committed serious human rights violations, which threaten national reconciliation. Those responsible for these actions must be held accountable.
The United States also supports the vital work of the UN Mission in South Sudan. All parties must cooperate fully and allow it to carry out its mandate without obstruction, especially protection of civilians. The fighting must end now without preconditions, and both sides must allow full access by humanitarian agencies so that food, water and sanitation can be provided to those in desperate need. We also call for the release of the 11 political detainees in Juba so that the political dialogue can begin.
The people of South Sudan sacrificed for decades to achieve independence and with the strong support of the United States they were able to attain it in July 2011. We are proud of our role in this historic event, and have made clear that we will continue to partner with the people of South Sudan. They deserve a brighter future and the opportunities that peace and development will bring.