January 18, 2013 (JUBA) – The Chairperson of the African Union (AU) commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has expressed concerns over South Sudan’s current crisis and called for an urgent inquiry to probe the “senseless” killings and gross human rights violations in the country.
- Thousands fleeing their home towns in South Sudan (AFP photo)
Violence erupted in the South Sudanese capital, Juba on December 15 and later spread to other parts of the country, killing over 1,000 people and leaving nearly half a million homeless.
The AU chairperson, in a statement issued on Saturday, urged both South Sudan government of South Sudan and the armed opposition to cease hostilities immediately and unconditionally, and sign an agreement to this effect in the supreme interest of their suffering people.
“She [Zuma] calls on all the parties to ensure unfettered and secured access by humanitarian agencies to all the people who are in urgent need for assistance, especially women, children and the elderly,” partly read the AU statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
It has, however, emerged that the South Sudanese president accepted on Saturday a cessation of hostilities agreement with rebels who have been fighting to remove him from power for over a month.
Under the terms of the draft deal, which the two sides immediately accepted, the fighters from both sides are expected to stop engaging in physical fighting, paving the way for further negotiations on how to resolve the crisis that started in mid-December.
A top United Nations official on Friday described the situation on South Sudan as “horror”, citing mass and extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and sexual violence, allegedly carried out on civilians by both pro and anti-government forces.
“Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands are now displaced, with some 70,000 people seeking protection in UN camps and 30,000 in the two UN compounds in Juba alone,” said Ivan Simonovic, the UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights.
“We are continuing our investigation into this very serious incident,” Simonovic.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the AU commission has urged all relevant stakeholders to urgently establish a commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan and make recommendations on the best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all its communities.
The continental body further reiterated its strong support for the African mediation on South Sudan led by the East African regional bloc, IGAD, and commends the mediators for their sustained efforts and continued commitment in the search for a solution to the current conflict.