By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
May 1, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The United States’ Secretary of State, John Kerry, on Thursday warned of a possible genocide in South Sudan unless concerted measures are taken to rapidly arrest the ongoing violence.
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP)
Kerry arrived in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, late on Wednesday on the first leg of a three-country tour of Africa.
Government sources told Sudan Tribune that the US official earlier held meetings in Addis Ababa with the foreign ministers of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda over the crises in South Sudan.
He told the IGAD member state foreign ministers that there was an urgent need to deploy a regional force in South Sudan to quell the violence which has killed tens of thousands and forced over a million people flee their homes since the conflict erupted in mid-December.
Failure to swiftly deploy the Prevention and Deterrent Force (PDF), with special mandate of peace building, Kerry said could lead to a possible genocide in the world’s youngest nation.
"There are very disturbing leading indicators of the kind of ethnic, tribal, targeted nationalistic killings taking place that raise serious questions," Kerry said.
"Were they to continue in the way they’ve been going could really present a very serious challenge to the international community with respect to the questions of genocide," he added.
The UN has already deployed some 9,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan but regional leaders mediating the South Sudan peace talks have decided to send more African troops.
This has been rejected by rebels led by former vice president Riek Machar. Some analysts have questioned the efficiency of having a new peacekeeping force in South Sudan, which may undermine the existing UN mission.
He further warned of possible sanctions against the leaders of the two South Sudan warring sides, whose forces are both accused of ethnic targeted killings.
"Those who are responsible for targeted killings based on ethnicity or nationality have to be brought to justice, and we are actively considering sanctions against those who commit human rights violations and obstruct humanitarian assistance.”
John Kerry said the United States fully supports African-led peace efforts to tackle the conflict.
After the discussions, Kerry and the IGAD representatives agreed that the fighting in South Sudan must stop urgently to prevent further blood shed and to stop the worsening humanitarian catastrophe.
"It is clear that the unspeakable violence in Central African Republic, the deliberate killing of civilians of both sides in South Sudan, both of those underscore the urgency of the work that we have to do together," he added.
Kerry is expected to meet Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, before heading to visit DR Congo and Angola as part of his six-day tour of Africa.
The South Sudan government and rebels have been engaged in on off peace talks since January.
The two sides signed an initial ceasefire agreement on 23 January however that agreement did not halt fighting on ground.
A new round of peace talks resumed this week but there are no signs of progress.