May 2, 2014 (JUBA) – Direct talks between South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar should be treated as an “emergency” in order to prevent growing violence and ethnic polarisation in the country, the US envoy to the United Nations told the Security Council (UNSC) on Friday.
- US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (Photo: AFP/Andrew Burton)
“We have heard many promises from South Sudanese leaders with no follow up. We hope, for the sake of the people of South Sudan suffering through this terrifying crisis that this time is different, and we urge president Kiir and Riek Machar to swiftly agree on a date for face to face talks,” said Samantha Power.
US secretary of state John Kerry said the South Sudanese leader had expressed willingness to discuss a transition government with Machar so as “to bring peace and restore legitimacy”.
“Throughout the meeting I made it clear to him (Kiir) that he needs do everything in his power to end the violence,” Kerry said on Friday.
Power urged both warring parties to take urgent steps to end the conflict, saying the ethnic polarisation and violence is growing worse everyday.
On Tuesday, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, met with Machar at an undisclosed location following a fresh wave of ethnic violence in the country in recent weeks.
four months after a wave of ethnic violence hit the new nation.
Pillay was accompanied by UN special envoy for the prevention of genocide Adama Dieng. The pair, who were tasked with carrying out investigations on behalf of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, also met president Kiir during their two-day visit.
She said discussions during the 35-minute meeting, which took place under a tree in a village, centred on recent violence in Unity state capital Bentiu in which civilians were allegedly massacred by Machar’s forces after retaking the town from government troops.
“[We] gave him the concerns of the secretary-general about protection of civilians,” Pillay told reporters in Juba.
“We received assurances from him that he himself is investigating human rights violations that occurred in Bentiu and is also concerned about the protection of civilians here,” she added.
Both Pillay and Dieng briefed the UNSC on the security situation in South Sudan on Friday.
Dieng told the 15-member body that the ethnic slaughter of hundreds of civilians in Bentiu and last month’s attack on a UN peacekeeping base in Jonglei capital Bor had changed the course of the conflict.
“If such attacks are not immediately halted it could plunge the country into serious violence that could spiral out of control,” he said.
“In the current situation we see elements that we could categorise as risk factors of genocide and other atrocity crimes,” he added.
Meanwhile, the ambassador urged the UNSC to consider imposing targeted sanctions on South Sudanese leaders so as to halt attacks on UN peacekeepers and innocent civilians in the country.
“In the coming days my government will join in circulating a resolution that will revise the mandate of UNMISS to focus more fully on civilian protection, human rights monitoring and investigation and the delivery of food and other emergency supplies,” Power said.
“This council should take up that resolution with the urgency that this crisis demands, she added.
The US and the European Union have both threatened South Sudan with sanctions. Last month, US president Barack Obama authorised possible targeted sanctions against those committing human rights abuses or undermining democracy and obstructing South Sudan’s peace process.
The conflict, which has entered its fifth month, has killed thousands and displaced more than a million people.