The Council of Minister of the East African bloc IGAD has condemned the recent fighting in Juba and demanded the opening of humantiarian corridors and reopening of the Juba Airport under the protection of UN peacekeepers.
“We are demanding ceasefire to be effected right now,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and the chairman of a meeting of the council yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya.
Amina Mohammed, Foreign Minister of Kenya said, “The longer we delay decision-making the more the suffering will continue.”
A communique passed during the meeting demands “re-opening of the Juba International Airport to be protected by UNMISS” as well as “immediate return of all armed forces and weapons to their barracks.”
This comes as embassies and foreign aid organizations are seeking to evacuate many of their personnel from Juba.
IGAD also demanded “opening of humanitarian corridors”, though it did not elaborate on what this would mean.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, reported yesterday that soldiers in Juba had been restricting the movements of peacekeepers and aid workers and he called on the government to stop restricting access to the airport. “UNMISS is doing all it can to contain a very volatile situation… However, freedom of movement and access outside of the UN compounds remains a challenge,” he told reporters in New York.
“There are many roadblocks and safety checks which do not allow movement,” said Ban. “The airport is also restricted. It is not operational now. That really makes it very difficult for us to operate, to provide humanitarian assistance and also to take care of wounded civilians and soldiers.”
“Therefore, I am urging the South Sudanese Government to ease all these restrictions immediately so that the UN peacekeeping mission can freely move around.” The secretary-general added, “I demand all the belligerent parties to guarantee unfettered access and freedom of movement to United Nations and humanitarian personnel engaged in life-saving activities in aid of the South Sudanese people.”
IGAD’s meeting yesterday was attended by foreign ministers of Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda as well as the ambassadors to Kenya of Djibouti, the USA, the UK, Norway and the EU.