July 31, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan risks facing famine unless its conflicting parties adopt immediate ceasefire for lasting peace, the United Kingdom minister for Africa warned on Thursday.
- British Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds holds a press conference at the end of an official visit to Sudan in the capital Khartoum on January 16, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ebrahim Hamid)
Mark Simmonds, in a statement issued ahead of the planned restart of South Sudan’s peace talks in Ethiopia, called on all parties to the talks to negotiate in good faith, stressing the terrible humanitarian consequences of the ongoing conflict the country’s leaders fail to reach a compromise.
“I welcome the upcoming restart of peace talks under the leadership of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). It is vital that all participants engage fully and constructively in this process and find a solution that benefits all the people of South Sudan”, said Simmonds in a statement.
First and foremost, the talks must mean that fighting ceases, this time for good. I join with IGAD in condemning the outbreak of violence that occurred in Nasir last week, a further dangerous departure from the cessation of hostilities, added the UK minister.
South Sudan’s crisis, now in its seventh month, has killed thousands and displaced over 1.5 million people internally and into neighbouring countries, aid agencies say.
Already, the United Nations UN estimates that 4 million people are facing crisis or emergency food insecurity levels and that the young nation currently faces the "worst famine in the world".
A new round of peace talks between South Sudan’s warring parties has been delayed, but officials from the rebel movement and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) say they expect negotiations to resume on Monday next week. Talks were scheduled to resume on 30 July in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Simmonds, however, stressed that the next round of talks must go beyond just ceasefires and set the framework for the lasting peace and good governance that the world’s youngest nation desperately needs.
The UK, the minister said, has already allocated £95m to the humanitarian response to the crisis in South Sudan and its neighbours, and is working in close coordination with our international partners, UN agencies, and the wider development community to support those in great need.
“We will continue to do so, and call on other members of the international community to play their part,” he stressed.
“But ultimately responsibility for finding solutions lies with the South Sudanese. If famine comes it will be man-made, the result of months of conflict that has driven people from their land in fear. The people of South Sudan deserve leaders who will listen, negotiate in good faith, and bring peace”, added the UK minister.
He appealed to South Sudan president, Salva Kiir, opposition leader, Riek Machar and other parties, to put aside their differences and give peace a chance.