Rebels fighting the South Sudanese government seized a helicopter of a regional ceasefire monitoring team and briefly detained its members. The aircraft and personnel were released and returned to their base, but not before one of the team members had died, reportedly of a heart attack.
Despite a Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed by the government and opposition forces in January - and under strong international pressure, recommitted to in May - both the government and opposition have blatantly and repeatedly violated their pledge to end the armed conflict. The continued fighting in South Sudan has cost thousands of innocent lives, displaced over a million people, and put countless others at risk of starvation.
The United States strongly condemns this most recent action by the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement-in-Opposition. Interference with the operations of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Monitoring and Verification Mechanism - which both parties have agreed to honor - clearly violates the agreement to cease hostilities.
Under the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, IGAD has eight monitoring groups that visit potential flashpoint areas around the troubled East African nation to verify that the ceasefire is being honored. On August 23, a six-member monitoring team flew to a location in Unity State, where their helicopter was seized and the monitors and crew were held over what a rebel spokesman later described as confusion over clearances.
The United States reiterates its support for IGAD’s mediation efforts and awaits the results of a formal investigation into the latest incident. The monitoring mechanism’s operations are vital to implementing the cessation of hostilities agreement and must be respected.