June 9, 2014 (JUBA) – Several prominent African leaders have appealed to South Sudan’s rival leaders to find an immediate solution to the country’s ongoing conflict, saying the fate of those facing the brunt of the crisis largely depends on them.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 aimed at resolving conflict in the country peacefully (Photo: Reuters)
“Let this be your moment to follow in the footsteps of the great African leaders who have left behind a legacy of inclusive peace. Let your decisive action now to end hostilities be your legacy to all the people of South Sudan, to Africa and to the world as history will harshly judge you if you fail to do so", partly read the letter signed by the 14 leaders, 12 of whom were former African heads of state.
"The fate of South Sudanese children, who have been affected by unimaginable violations, including killings, forced recruitment, rape and abductions, is in your hands", it added.
The renowned leaders said they were disappointed by the level of destruction and killings resulting from the conflict, yet they thought its dependence would improve lives.
“The Independence should have led to all South Sudanese living in peace, having access to jobs and incomes and public services enabling them to live in dignity. Instead, 1 in every 5 displaced South Sudanese is living in inaccessible areas, making it difficult to access food and clean water", they said in their letter.
The rights that South Sudanese hoped to enjoy after independence have been obliterated by war, a war that must be replaced by dialogue, the leaders stressed.
"As signatories to this appeal, we encourage you to recall the long and painful path the people of South Sudan have taken to achieve statehood", further reads the letter.
A meeting between South Sudan president Riek Machar and rebel leader Riek Machar is due to take place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Tuesday as part of efforts to bring to an end nearly six months of the country’s bloody conflict.
“In the lead up to the next round of talks, we write to ask you to exercise your leadership to bring an immediate end to the fighting in South Sudan. We appeal to you to engage in an inclusive peace process which is not only defined by those who picked up guns and waged war but by all women and men of South Sudan from different communities, religions, ages and ethnicities", the leaders argued.
The violence, which broke out in mid-December last year, has forced more than 1.3 million people, including over half a million children, to flee their homes. Over half of South Sudan’s population, aid agencies say, were at risk of starvation and 223,000 children could face acute malnutrition while 50,000 of these children may not survive.
"The people of South Sudan need peace and security now, not more war", the leaders said.
SEED OF PEACE
However, South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei said his government was "optimistic that this round of discussions will sow the seeds of peace".
Oxfam’s director, Winnie Byanyima said the letter signed by the 14 eminent African leaders shows that the leaders of this continent were no longer prepared to sit by and watch the humanitarian catastrophe continue to unfold in South Sudan.
"In the letter, these leaders say it is unconscionable that Salva Kiir and Riek Machar could allow the unravelling of the very unity and optimism that prevailed when South Sudan gained its independence almost three years ago, rather than shepherding their young nation to peace, prosperity and stability", Byanyima said on Monday.
“The continent’s leaders have spoken out against what is happening in South Sudan today, and they cannot be ignored", she added.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former presidents Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Pierre Buyoya (Burundi), Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) and John Kufuor (Ghana) among others, signed the letter.