July 23, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese rival leaders must engage in meaningful negotiations to avert an imminent famine as a result of the country’s ongoing conflict, US special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan said on Wednesday.
- US envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth speaks to reporters in Juba on 23 July 2014 (US embassy photo)
Donald Booth said his country would do everything within its power to pressure the two parties to dialogue and form a transitional government.
Booth told reporters in Juba that “3.8 million, almost 4 million, people are at this point already experiencing severe food insecurity. And this is not a result of drought or floods. This is a result of conflict, a man-made catastrophe”.
Nearly 1.4 million people have forced out of their homes as a result of the seven-month old conflict in the young nation, with up to 300,000 displaced into neighboring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan.
“We are working with the parties to the conflict, with other stakeholders from South Sudan; civil society, religious leaders, political parties to try to put an end to the conflict so that this humanitarian situation is can begin to be turned around before so many South Sudanese begin to suffer [from] starvation,” the US special envoy said.
In May, the US pledged nearly $300 million for humanitarian crisis for South Sudan during a donor conference held Oslo, Norway. Recently, it provided additional $22 million for South Sudan’s humanitarian needs.
Booth, however, assured that America’s commitment to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan will not wither.
“The United States is by far the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance to South Sudan. This is one of the reasons the United States is determined to try to bring about serious peace talks,” he said.
Booth said the US still had the “leverage” to ensure that South Sudan government and opposition negotiated peacefully, citing the recent sanctions slapped on two military officers for allegedly blocking the peace process.
“I think the important thing though is the parties to the talks. If they can get beyond the discussion they have been having to-date and actually begin to deal with real issues that are facing South Sudan,” he said.
Talks between the two rival leaders, mediated by East African regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is considered the best way of ending the more than seven-month-long conflict in the country.