January 22, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s foreign ministry appeared to move to allay fears that the five-week-old conflict has soured relations between its neighbours and the international community.
Within days of the conflict breaking out in the capital Juba, Uganda deployed troops to its northern neighbour. The stated aim initially was to help protect the airport and help evacuation efforts but more recently Kampala has admitted fighting against rebels on the side of government, having initially denied it was doing so.
Uganda’s military intervention has been strongly criticised not only by those who rebelled against the government but has been a shock to other members of the East African regional bloc IGAD, which is the body mediating between the two sides.
Addis Ababa and diplomats in other regional capitals are believed to be concerned that Uganda’s military intervention undermines IGAD’s neutrality.
Despite these concerns the two sides sign a deal on Thursday in which they agreed to cease hostilities.
Following the signing of the deal in Addis Ababa, Peter Bashir Gbandi, South Sudan’s deputy foreign affairs and international cooperation minister said that the Juba government is keen to develop bilateral ties and relations with only neigbouring countries, as well as the wider international community.
Gbandi, a conservative politician with the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) from Maridi county in Western Equatoria, expressed the desire of the government to reach out to political forces and achieve consensus on national principles and visions through dialogue.
"Our people and the leadership therefore expect the international community to live by the universally accepted principles and obligations to standby the democratically elected government. The international community needs to show fairness and come out to accept and condemn attempt to overthrow the legitimate government", Gbandi said.
Lual Bol Kuan, a spokesperson for the South Sudanese business community, commended neigbouring countries for standing with the government to overcome difficulties the country continues to undergo as a result of the conflict which began in mid-December last year.
"On behalf of the business community, I would like to pass sincere thanks to the government and the people of neighbouring countries, specifically the government of Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. I want to thank these countries because they have never abandoned us during such difficult times. They stood with us when we were fighting Khartoum and they have now demonstrated the importance and the value of neighbourhood”, said Kuan.
South Sudan became independent in July 2011 as part of a peace deal with Sudan signed in 2005 that ended decades of conflict. However, the current violence has reopened old wounds from the civil war between some communities in South Sudan.
Kuan commended business communities from East African countries for continuing supply goods and services to the new nation despite the unfolding security situation which had forced some international companies to leave the country.
Over half a million people, many of whom are women and children, have been displaced over the last five weeks, according to the United Nations, including 78,000 to neighbouring countries.
Uganda’s West Nile region, is now hosting more than 42,000 according to the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR). A further 18,600 have sought refuge in Ethiopia.
Kenya has received nearly 6,800 people from Jonglei state, which has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting. An estimated 10,000 people have fled north to Sudan’s West Kordofan and South Kordofan states.
Khartoum has expressed support for the Juba government of President Salva Kiir and has offered to send oil engineers to South Sudan’s fields to make up for the many staff who have been evacuated for safety reasons.