ADDIS ABABA (11 Dec.)
East African leaders at a summit meeting in Addis Ababa on Friday condemned in the strongest terms the reported systematic targeting, killings and forced displacement of civilians and destruction of property by armed men in South Sudan.
The IGAD summit was chaired by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and attended by the heads of state of Sudan, Djibouti, South Sudan and Somalia, besides the foreign ministers of Kenya and Uganda.
The East African leaders held extensive deliberations on the overall political and security situation in South Sudan in a closed session.
Afterwards, they issued a communiqué stating the summit “ condemns sexual violence on women and girls and expresses deep concern with the rising ethnic rhetoric, hate speech and ethnically-fueled violence,”.
They called upon the political leadership in South Sudan to immediately condemn and take steps to prevent any act of discrimination, hostility, and hatred that could constitute incitement to violence.
Also the communiqué further called on all parties to immediately cease all hostilities, while condemning declaration of armed uprisings in South Sudan and called upon the SPLM-IO faction to renounce violence as means of solving the problems of South Sudan.
The leaders expressed their serious concern and dismay that the implementation of the peace agreement has faced a serious setback since July clashes in Juba and underlined their firm conviction that the peace accord is the only viable way towards achievement of peace and stability in South Sudan.
The communiqué commended the JMEC Chairperson and members of the Commission for the hard work they are performing under extremely difficult circumstances in monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement.
Deployment of RPF
According to the communiqué, the summit welcomed the consent given by the unity government for the immediate deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF), including equipment and weapons required by the Force.
The leaders also commended the troop contributing countries for the RPF for shouldering the responsibility of deploying their troops under the RPF in the spirit of regional solidarity.
Moreover, the communiqué reaffirmed the continued and collective commitment of the region in the search of lasting peace, security and stabilization in South Sudan, including through the early deployment and full operationalization of the RPF.
The communiqué also expressed its deep appreciation for the commendable role that Kenya has played for peace and stability in South Sudan, the IGAD region and the African continent in general and commended President Uhuru Kenyatta for reiterating Kenya’s firm commitment to continue to play its key leadership role in supporting the peace process in South Sudan.
The summit encouraged the government of Kenya to reconsider its decision of withdrawing its troops from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and to contribute to the RPF.
Cooperation with peace monitors
The same statement called upon the unity government to fully cooperate with the operations of the Ceasefire Transitional Security Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), UNMISS, and humanitarian partners in particular with respect to their freedom of movement, saying the government has a responsibility to facilitate the deployment and unimpeded movement of CTSAMM.
The summit also underlined the need for a credible and genuinely inclusive political process, as the only basis for sustainable peace in South Sudan, stressing that inclusivity is not about individuals, but it is a process of ensuring genuine representation of the national character in the implementation of the peace agreement.
However, the communiqué welcomed President Kiir’s plan to conduct an all-inclusive national dialogue, and encouraged President Kiir to embrace all parties of the agreement that are willing to rejoin the peace process to do so, in the spirit of greater inclusivity, forgiveness and reconciliation.
The regional body called upon the SPLM-IG and SPLM-IO, as well as other South Sudanese political stakeholders to reaffirm their commitment to the full and timely implementation of the peace agreement.
Dire humanitarian situation
The IGAD summit expressed its grave concern over the humanitarian situation in South Sudan including acute scarcity of food resulting in massive displacement of population creating immense problems related to IDPs within the country and influx of refugees in the neighboring states.
In this connection, the summit called upon the unity government to create a conducive environment for humanitarian access, and to take full responsibility for ensuring the protection of civilians and the safe passage for humanitarian convoys, as well as the safety and security of humanitarian workers.
The summit commended partners of IGAD and the international community at large for the generous humanitarian assistance to the people of South Sudan and emphasized the need for continued support in the face of increasing humanitarian crisis currently prevalent in South Sudan.
The region noted with concern the prevailing dire economic situation in South Sudan and its consequence on the peace, security and livelihoods of people of South Sudan and acknowledged the measures taken by the government to ameliorate the situation including the submission to the Transitional National Legislative Assembly a draft budget that would cut expenditure by 50 percent and reduces budget deficit.
Moreover, the IGAD summit called upon the international community to continue enhancing its engagement with the unity government in particular in providing technical and financial support as per the government’s request and in view of the many and critical benchmarks that require financing as spelt out in the peace accord.
According to the IGAD leaders, an arms embargo or sanctions on South Sudan will not provide the solution being sought for permanent peace and stability in the country.
They stressed that what is required is dialogue, reconciliation and commitment by all South Sudanese parties to faithfully implement the agreement and for the region and the international community to support them.