July 9, 2014 (WASHINGTON) – US secretary of state John Kerry says the current conflict in South Sudan is in danger of undermining the sacrifices so many South Sudanese people made during the country’s long struggle to gain independence.
- US secretary of state John Kerry (Photo: Daniel Getachew/EPA)
Kerry made the comments in a statement on Wednesday marking the third anniversary of South Sudan’s secession from the north, in which it engaged in a brutal civil war spanning more than two decades before a 2005 peace deal paved the way for a referendum on self-determination in January 2011, with the South declaring independence on 9 July 2011.
“Three years ago I witnessed the people of South Sudan vote to forge a new nation, founded on the promise of a more peaceful and prosperous future for all of South Sudan’s people. Now that promise for which the people of South Sudan suffered and sacrificed so much is being threatened by the current conflict,” he said.
“Too much blood has been spilled, and too many lives have been lost, to allow South Sudan’s moment of hope and opportunity to slip from its grasp,” he added.
LEADERS MUST ACT
Kerry extended his best wishes to the people of South Sudan on behalf of president Barack Obama and the American people on the occasion of the country’s third anniversary since independence, while also taking the opportunity to press South Sudan’s rival parties to do more to ensure a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
“It is high time to honour fully the cessation of hostilities agreement of January 23 to end the violence, especially the violence being targeted against civilians,” he said.
South Sudan has been mired in conflict since a political split in the ruling SPLM turned violent in mid-December last year. The fighting has pitted government forces loyal to president Salva Kiir and rebel troops aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, who was sacked last July, and has also reignited tribal tensions across the country.
Thousands have been killed and more than 1.3 million displaced in what is South Sudan’s worst post-secession violence.
January’s tenuous ceasefire deal failed to quell violence on the ground and peace talks, which were being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, were recently adjourned indefinitely.
Kerry called on South Sudan’s rival leaders to fully engage in the IGAD-led peace process and to fulfil their commitments to end the conflict and establish a transitional government.
“Now is the time for South Sudan’s leaders to show courage and leadership, and to reaffirm their commitment to unity, to reconciliation and accountability, and to a better future for the people of South Sudan,” he said.
Kerry has also reiterated his country’s support for South Sudan, saying the US would continue to remain a “steadfast partner” as the young nation goes forward.
“The United States remains committed to supporting the people of South Sudan during this time of incredible difficulty, and continuing to lead the international response to the looming humanitarian and refugee crisis,” he said.
“Looking forward, the United States will continue to be a steadfast partner to the South Sudanese people in support of their efforts to achieve a more peaceful and prosperous future for their young country,” he added.
The US – a long-time ally of the South – played a key role in championing its struggle for independence from Sudan, with Washington exerting considerable diplomatic efforts.
The latest crisis sparked fears of an all-out civil war, with Kerry travelling to South Sudan in May amid warnings the country was at risk of descending into genocide.
The Obama administration has already slapped sanctions on individuals believed to be directly responsible for human rights abuses and has threatened to impose more.