In one of the most blatant violations to date of their June 10 pledge to end the fighting and enter talks to establish a transitional government, South Sudanese rebels attacked and are seeking control of Nasir, a strategic town in Upper Nile state.
Opposition forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar launched a ground attack against the South Sudanese army early July 20, capturing some government positions. Army spokesmen claimed that the rebels were eventually driven away with heavy losses. Sporadic fighting is said to continue around the area.
The parties have repeatedly agreed to negotiate to end the fighting, only to see it continue. Prodded by the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, as well as by the threat of sanctions by the African Union, United States, and others in the international community, both sides agreed to an August 10 deadline for formation of a transition government, and progress on this front is urgently needed.
Meanwhile, the conflict is in its seventh month, thousands are dead, and more than 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes. Food stocks are running low in northern regions of the country where the fighting has been fiercest, and aid agencies fear South Sudan could tip into famine.
The United States strongly condemns the attack on Nasir and calls on both parties to immediately end all such actions and fully adhere to their previous truce agreements. With the destruction inflicted on Nasir, the repeated suffering of South Sudan’s people, and the worsening humanitarian crisis, it is increasingly urgent that both parties immediately recommit themselves to inclusive political negotiations.
The cycle of violence that has plagued South Sudan for too long must come to an end.