The political and ethnic fighting that has erupted in South Sudan is spreading, with untold numbers of people killed throughout the country. President Salva Kiir, said the fighting was sparked by an attempted coup, but tensions between the country’s two largest ethnic groups appear now to be fueling the violence.
The South Sudan people have endured far too many years of conflict and sacrificed far too much to allow their young country to plunge back into turmoil.
The Special Envoy to South Sudan Donald Booth and U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Susan Page met with President Kiir to express our nation’s deep concern about the situation, which prompted a call for evacuating U.S. citizens. The ambassadors urged authorities to ensure that the rights of political activists arrested during the fighting be protected in accord with the nation’s constitution and international law. On December 23, they met with imprisoned opposition party members and noted that they were secure, well cared for and ready to play a constructive role in a negotiated solution.
Secretary of State John Kerry has also expressed his concern, saying that the South Sudan people have endured far too many years of conflict and sacrificed far too much to allow their young country to plunge back into turmoil.
The crisis began December 15, when a group of soldiers loyal to former Vice President Reik Macher allegedly tried to take power by opening fire at a meeting of the nation’s governing party. Mr. Macher, who was President Kiir’s deputy until July, when he and other officials were dismissed in a cabinet shakeup, denied the charges. He said the government is using the incident to crackdown on the opposition. Facing arrest himself, he was forced to flee.
This conflict can only be resolved peacefully through negotiations.”
South Sudan has faced many challenges since becoming independent from Sudan, including border clashes with its neighbor, a cutoff in oil revenues and disputes over land and other issues between its two major ethnic groups, the Dinka and Neur peoples. Humanitarian groups strive to deliver aid to people struggling with food shortages and drought. It is a far cry from the jubilant picture seen on Independence Day in July 2011.
South Sudan’s leaders must know that continued violence will endanger the people of South Sudan and the hard-earned progress of independence. “This conflict can only be resolved peacefully through negotiations,” President Obama said in remarks on the crisis.
Now is the time for South Sudan’s leaders to rein in armed groups under their control, immediately cease attacks on civilians and end the chain of retributive violence between different ethnic and political groups.
The United States joins the international community to call for all South Sudanese to unite as one nation and to reject ethnic tension and violence. We are committed to the realization of the full political, social, and economic potential of all.