By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
January 27, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Africa Union executive council meeting, held in the Ethiopian capital Monday, has urged South Sudan’s warring parties to peacefully end their political dispute.
The call comes days after delegations from South Sudan government and its rebels on Thursday signed a cessation of hostilities agreement seeking to end nearly six weeks of fighting in the country.
The security situations in South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) formed the main agenda of the meeting, mainly attended by African foreign affairs ministers.
Tedros Adhanom, the Ethiopian foreign minister described the situation in both South Sudan and CAR “very alarming”, but congratulated the world’s youngest nation on its ceasefire deal.
“There is no justification for the continuation of the crises in both places even for a day,” said Adhanom, who is also the chairperson of the AU executive council.
“The current situation in South Sudan is a reflection of the challenges that face a post-conflict state and needs to be handled with a lot of wisdom and magnanimity,” he added.
Participants at the summit further urged the two warring south Sudanese parties to show political commitment to end the crises and the suffering of tens of thousands of people.
“The South Sudanese political actors should rise above their individual interest to save the country from falling into the precipice,” stressed the Ethiopian prime minister, as both parties continue trading accusation against each other of violating last week’s agreement.
Also on the agenda at the two-day meeting are agriculture and food security issues.
While opening the summit, the chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said the summit would focus on reviewing security situations on the continent and devise mechanisms of handling its conflicts.
“The cost of conflicts and internal strife are too huge. We must therefore continue to create climates for peace and stability, including effective, democratic and accountable governance and institutions, and by ensuring development and shared prosperity”, said Dlamini-Zuma.
The AU Commission, she added, has a goal to ensure “guns fall silent by 2020.”
SOUTH SUDANESE FLEE TO ETHIOPIA
Meanwhile, thousands of South Sudanese have fled to Ethiopia since fighting between the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and dissidebt forces loyal to the country’s former vice-president Riek Machar broke on December 15 last year.
More than 21,000 South Sudanese refugees, according to Danish Refugee Council (DRC), have crossed borders to Ethiopia in the past few weeks to escape violence.
“In order to respond to the needs of the thousands of refugees, when they arrive at the new camp, DRC are working day and night to ensure the absolute most important thing in the camp – clean drinking water,” said Christian Jacob Hansen, Head of the DRC unit for Horn of Africa and Yemen.
“DRC works to put four wells near the camp in function. Until the wells are functional, DRC pumps, purifies and transport water from the river to the camp,” he added.
At least half a million South Sudanese have since been displaced, with an about 80,000 reportedly fleeing to neighbouring Kenya, Uganda and Sudan as a result of the conflict.