Meeting in Addis Ababa, the two rivals said they are committed to finally implementing the peace agreement signed May 9, but which quickly broke down amid scattered skirmishing. International pressure has been growing on both parties to reach a political settlement and end the fighting.
The United States has imposed sanctions on individuals identified as ordering human rights abuses or obstructing the peace process. During the latest meeting on June 10, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, a regional bloc, threatened to take collective action, including unspecified punitive measures against any party that fails to honor its commitments. The two South Sudanese leaders said they were committed to completing negotiations within 60 days.
Keeping to that deadline is critical to restoring peace and stability to the troubled nation. In addition to the atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated against innocent civilians, the fighting has displaced more than 1.3 million people internally and as refugees, and a potential but preventable famine is looming. Fighting must end and humanitarian groups must be given full and unimpeded access.
As the political talks begin, the critical decisions about the way forward should be decided by South Sudanese stakeholders, including civil society and women leaders, in an inclusive dialogue that establishes a genuine transitional government, revises the constitution, holds perpetrators of serious human rights abuses accountable and sets forth a credible timeline for elections.
The United States has long been committed to supporting an end to the crisis, and we will continue intensive diplomatic efforts to press for progress. Counselor for the Department of State Thomas Shannon and Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth attended the IGAD summit in Addis Ababa. They also met with President Kiir and opposition leader Machar to underscore the importance of finding a political solution. Ambassador Booth will remain in the region as needed to support follow-on negotiations.
The people of South Sudan have suffered too much for far too long. This agreement offers an opportunity that must not slip as others have. The United States stands with the people of South Sudan and is committed to doing everything we can to assist them.