Kerry in South Sudan to press for halt to conflict

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry blamed both of South Sudan's warring rivals for what he described as recent "tribal killings" in the violence-prone country.

Kerry in South Sudan to press for halt to conflict

World Bulletin / News Desk

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into South Sudan on Friday to push for a halt to more than four months of fighting in Africa's newest nation, a message he was expected to deliver in talks with President Salva Kiir.

Kerry's trip to South Sudan, his first as Secretary of State, came a day after he renewed U.S. threats of sanctions and held out hope for the rapid deployment of more peacekeepers. He said the conflict could descend into genocide.

"Secretary Kerry will reiterate the need for all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement, to immediately cease attacks on civilians, and to fully cooperate with the United Nations and humanitarian organizations," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Speaking at a press conference earlier in Addis Ababa, Kerry said there were indications that tribal killings had recently taken place in South Sudan, adding that both warring parties were to blame.

He stressed, however, that the U.S. continued to recognize South Sudan's constitutionally elected government.

"The U.S. condemns the brutal attacks against innocent civilians in South Sudan," Kerry told the press conference, pointing in particular to "very disturbing" indications of recent tribal killings.

"Acts of violence against civilians on both sides… are a reminder of the unbelievable capacity for cruelty on this planet when sectarianism – when violence of one tribe, one race against another – is unleashed," he said.

"We have all of us vowed to try and prevent that kind of violence. And this is precisely the kind of violence the people of South Sudan fought so hard, so long to escape," Washington's top diplomat said.

Kerry went on to say that Washington would consider sanctions as a possible means of preventing such tribal violence.

He added that personal animosity between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and the latter's sacked vice president, Riek Machar, had contributed to the crisis and the victimization of an entire people.

"Both President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar need to condemn the brutal attacks taking place against innocent civilians. Leadership is needed," Kerry asserted.

Washington, he went on, was currently cooperating with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East Africa trade bloc that has been mediating peace talks between South Sudan's warring rivals, with a view to resolving the crisis.

On Wednesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay and U.N. Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng also criticized recent ethnic killings in South Sudan.

According to the U.N., over 200 people were killed and 400 injured in various places of worship – at which they had sought refuge – in Bentiu, capital of Unity State, from 14 to 16 April.

Rebels are accused of targeting civilians based on their ethnicity amid radio broadcasts inciting men to rape women of other ethnic groups.

Some 40 people were killed in an April 17 retaliatory attack on the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Bor, capital of Jonglei State.

The attack was reportedly staged by protesters, angered by the ethnic violence in Bentiu, who wanted to retaliate by attacking displaced people of the same ethnicity as the rebels.

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when Kiir accused Machar of leading a failed coup attempt against his regime.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the U.N. estimating that some one million South Sudanese have already been displaced by the violence.

Last Mod: 02 Mayıs 2014, 11:01
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