April 23, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has expressed disappointment with the way regional leaders are responding to his pleas for help to end the country’s nearly four-month-old conflict which erupted after his former deputy, Riek Machar and several other officials, were accused of attempting to depose him from power by military means.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, says regional leaders are not doing enough to quell rebellion in the country, which erupted in mid-December last year
Speaking at an Easter dinner held on Monday, Kiir questioned whether it would take his death for regional leaders to act.
“Riek and his group have refused to honour the cessation of hostilities agreement we have signed. They say they will continue to fight unless I step down or otherwise they will continue to fight until they reach Juba for them to stop. And you know when they come to Juba; I am number one on the list of the people they want to kill, after which they will accept to stop the fighting,” the president told a gathering consisting largely of members of his cabinet.
Kiir, who have visited a number of key neighbouring countries in recent months to brief their heads of state on the current situation, said it appeared regional leaders were not taking the conflict seriously.
Violence erupted in mid-December last year, pitting government forces loyal to Kiir against pro-Machar rebels.
The fighting has left thousands left and cause wide-scale destruction across the country.
However, Kiir said there appeared to a lack of will from regional neighbours to hold Machar and his allies accountable.
“I went to Kenya and Khartoum. I also travelled to Uganda and Rwanda. The last was Ethiopia. In these visits, I explained to them (regional leaders) what Riek and his group is doing but they keep quiet. So in this case, what do you do?” he said.
“Do you have to wait until you are hit in the head? No. You have to do something,” Kiir added.
Many analysts and observers have interpreted the reluctance of regional leaders to get involved as reflective of their frustration with the intransigence of the Kiir administration, amid concerns it is not complying to measures aimed at ending the conflict.
Leaders from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD, the East African regional bloc mediating peace talks between the two warring sides, had sought the inclusion of seven former political detainees in the negotiation process, a move the South Sudanese government rejected.
Other IGAD member countries, including neighbouring Sudan and Ethiopia, as well as members of the international community, have expressed deep concerns over the involvement of Ugandan troops in the conflict, which are fighting alongside government forces, calling for their immediate withdrawal and warning that the latter’s presence would prolong conflict in the country.
A tenuous ceasefire deal between the two sides brokered by IGAD in January has been shattered by a fresh outbreak of ethnically motivated violence in Unity and Jonglei states.
More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and more than 400 wounded while sheltering in a Mosque on 15 April after rebels retook Unity state capital Bentiu from government forces.
This was followed by an attack two days later on civilians sheltering inside a UN base camp in Jonglei state capital Bor, which left more than 40 dead and scores wounded.
Both sides are accused of committing atrocities during the conflict, which has taken on an increasingly tribal dimension.
A delegation from an African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan began its first field mission on Monday.
The commission is tasked with investigating human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict, with the aim of achieving sustainable peace and security in the fractured young nation.