South Sudan Ceasefire After Violence Leaves Hundreds Dead


South Sudan has declared a ceasefire amongst its factions with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir declaring “unilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities”, while ordered government troops to “disengage” from fighting rival forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar.

Violence broke out in Juba, the South Sudanese capital, on Monday. The conflict erupted despite the United Nation’s Security Council’s call for the restraining of all armed forces. Reuters reports that at least 272 people have been killed in the recent violence.

The UN in a press release called for an end to the violence; they have “directly called on the leadership at the highest level in South … to engage in dialogue to find a political solution to this crisis and to allow access to the United Nations to be able to patrol in order to reassure the civilian population.”

The UN reports that although hundreds of civilians have been forced to seek protection at the UN Tomping Base, they are worried by reports that armed forces have prevented civilians from seeking protection.  The UN has also expressed its concern over the proximity of the fighting to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) complexes which has resulted in civilians being displaced from the UNMISS protection of civilians site (PoC) 1 into the UNMISS compound at UN House Jebel. “Both UNMISS compounds in Juba have sustained impacts from small arms and heavy weapons fire.”

Al Jazeera reporter John Hendren has stated that the outbreak of violence means “that the hopes of peace were dimming” in the country.

The declaration of a ceasefire however finally came as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called on the Security Council to impose an “immediate arms embargo” on the world’s youngest independent state.

Ban stated, “Let me underscore, again, to all those leading and perpetrating these hostilities, that acts of violence perpetrated against civilians and United Nations and humanitarian personnel, assets and premises may constitute a war crime. There must and will be accountability for the atrocities that have been committed in South Sudan since 2013.  It is not just leaders who must face a reckoning, but all those in the chain of command, including chiefs of staff and other officials complicit in the violence.”

South Sudan was founded in 2011 after it gained independence from Sudan and conflict began in 2013 when President Kiir accused Riek Machar of organising a coup. Thousands have died in the conflict and many have also starved. In August a peace agreement was signed that saw Machar re-enter government as the first step of integrating both sides into a national army.

With thousands dead and the lives of more at risk due to conflicts and the impact they have, both sides of the conflict must engage in peace talks in order to resolve the conflict. It is their duty as leaders to ensure that they put the safety and the lives of the citizens of Sudan first.

 

Statement from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: //www.un.org/sg/offthecuff/index.asp?nid=4616

Statement from UNMISS: //unmiss.unmissions.org/Portals/unmiss/%20Press%20Releases/2016/July%202016/160710%20Juba%20crisis%20%E2%80%93%20July%2010.pdf

Al Jazeera’s video on South Sudan’s descent into violence: //www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2016/07/wrong-south-sudan-160709183453696.html

Annemarie Lewis