April 28, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The third session of South Sudan peace talks focusing on a political dialogue for national reconciliation and healing resumed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday, mediators said in a statement.
East African regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) adjourned talks on 7 April to allow for further consultations.
IGAD said the special envoys had also held a series of consultations with leaders of both warring parties, including South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar in order to fast-track the negotiation process and avert further escalation of the conflict.
“During the consultations, the principals shared concern over the recent escalation of the conflict and expressed their renewed commitment to the mediation process,” partly reads a statement issued by IGAD on Monday.
Envoys also travelled to regional capitals, where they reportedly held consultations with leaders of IGAD-member countries, the African Union (AU), the United Nations and other partners to help mobilise support for the mediation process.
Discussions also centred on the operations of the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism and the deployment of a regional protection force.
HUMANITARIANS CONDEMN KILLINGS
Meanwhile, several humanitarian and advocacy groups have expressed concerns over the South Sudanese crisis, particularly the recent atrocities committed in Bentiu and the attack on civilians at a UN base in Jonglei state capital Bor.
“We strongly condemn these vicious attacks against civilians, including at medical and religious institutions. Both parties to the conflict continue to transform it from a political dispute into a conflict of an increasingly ethnic character, with attacks involving one ethnic group triggering attacks against others,” said a joint statement issued by seven humanitarian agencies, including the Enough Project.
They further warned of the growing “regionalization” of the conflict, saying its continuation could escalate and extend the war, now in its fourth month.
“Unless reversed it will complicate efforts to end the fighting, and the recent attacks in Bentiu, which mark the first targeting of Sudanese groups not previously implicated in the violence, offer a worrying example of the spillover of ethnic violence,” the statement said.
Outlining a series of measures to end the conflict, the group specifically urged both warring parties to fully implement the cessation of hostilities agreement to pave way for full deployment of the IGAD regional forces in the conflict-affected areas to ensure stability.
Also of importance, the humanitarian actors stressed, was the need to allow immediate, full and unimpeded humanitarian access to address ongoing needs of the suffering civilians who could face food shortage as the rainy season approaches.
“Those in the international community concerned with South Sudan’s downward spiral into conflict have an important role to play to help stop this senseless killing,” the groups said.
“We call on the international community to take the following steps to address the urgent civilian protection issues facing the people of South Sudan,” the statement adds.
The UN says over one million people have been displaced and thousands killed since fighting erupted late last year between soldiers loyal to president Kiir and rebel forces aligned with Machar.