As world leaders met last month in New York for the opening of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United States worked to focus greater attention and pressure toward ending the political crisis in South Sudan.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called a September 25 high level meeting to discuss the dire humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict there and the growing frustration in the international community that despite President Salva Kiir’s and former Vice President Riek Machar’s recommitment to cease hostilities, fighting continues.
Even as the parties resumed national unity talks in Ethiopia mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, government troops and opposition forces loyal to the former vice president clashed again in Upper Nile state, leaving almost 200 dead.
U.S. officials taking part in the U.N. meeting told participants that the fighting has driven 1.8 million people – close to 20 percent of the population – from their homes, almost half a million of them into refugee camps in neighboring nations. Some 40 percent of South Sudanese are in need of food assistance, all in a man-made disaster that can only be settled through inclusive peace talks, not on the battlefield.
Ambassador Donald Booth is U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.
“We urge everyone who has been party to the talks to date, whether of the political parties, civil society, the religious community, to be allowed to continue to participate in the negotiations.”
Fighting erupted in December 2013 when a political dispute within the country’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, turned violent. Political conflict erupted into inter-communal fighting, with a cost of more than ten thousand lives.
The United States and international community are putting pressure on the warring parties in other ways, as well. The United States has imposed sanctions on individuals from both sides of the conflict who are responsible for gross violations of human rights or violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement. More may be imposed. Again, Ambassador Booth:
“We will continue to work with our Troika partners and IGAD in other ways for increasing the costs of continuing the conflict, as a way of pressuring the parties to negotiate seriously.”
The United States is fully supportive of the IGAD mediation effort and stands with the people of South Sudan. President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar must assume their responsibilities to prevent further needless suffering.