On the eve of planned peace talks between the South Sudanese government and rebels contesting its authority, government troops and rebel soldiers are clashing again.
Fighting flared around the town of Bentiu in Unity State, a hub of one of the nation’s key oil producing regions. Control of the area is uncertain, with both sides claiming the upper hand in the skirmish. The two sides are due to hold a fresh round of talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, though the start date is uncertain yet.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the latest attacks by Sudan People’s Liberation Movement /Army - In Opposition (SPLM/A - IO) in and around Bentiu. Despite the parties’ recent acceptance of collective responsibility for the crisis, these current attacks demonstrate that the SPLM/A-IO has yet to abandon violence to achieve its goals. We call on both sides to ensure their forces refrain from further actions that violate the January 23 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and undermine the peace process in South Sudan.
More than 1.4 million people in South Sudan have fled their homes since December, when a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Reik Machar erupted into armed conflict, later escalating into widespread inter-communal violence. Commanders from both sides have been sanctioned for human rights abuses and violating a ceasefire that was signed in January.
As the conflict persists and the humanitarian crisis continues to reach even more appalling levels, it is more urgent than ever to respect previous agreements to end the hostilities, cease the recruitment and mobilization of forces, including that of child soldiers, and engage earnestly in inclusive negotiations.
No party should use these latest attacks as an excuse not to engage in the peace process or not to work in good faith to negotiate all necessary elements of a sustainable political transition, achieve a sustainable peace and restore national unity. We remind all parties of the need to guarantee that UNMISS sites and personnel are protected and that UN and other humanitarian agencies have safe, unfettered access to people in need of assistance.
The United States remains committed to the people of South Sudan and is determined to hold accountable those who choose violence, standing ready to place sanctions on those who obstruct peace, commit human rights abuses and violations, and block humanitarian assistance.