The deputy chairman of the African Union (AU) says his organization is working with its international partners to put pressure on South Sudan’s warring factions to create a “humanitarian corridor” that would allow aid agencies to provide much needed assistance to the victims of the conflict.
Erastus Mwencha tells VOA the AU is also encouraged with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD’s) efforts at ongoing peace talks in Ethiopia to help stabilize the security situation in South Sudan.
The talks have reached a stalemate over the fate of 11 political detainees accused by President Salva Kiir of plotting to overthrow the government in Juba. Former vice president Riek Machar has so far refused to sign a ceasefire agreement insisting that the detained officials should be released before an agreement.
Mwencha says the AU supports IGAD’s efforts to help resolve the issues hampering the peace negotiations in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
“The sticky issues which have become a major obstacle to cessation of hostilities that is the release of the detained officials and of course getting a ceasefire in place, so that we can provide humanitarian assistance is given support. Without them, there would be some efforts in this direction perhaps late this week or early next week,” said Mwencha.
Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have been displaced by the unrest and Mwencha says there is need for the warring factions to grant access to aid groups who can provide assistance to the victims of the conflict.
“The concern of all of us is really calling on the two parties to assume that responsibility of statesmanship and responsibility to the people of Sudan to save life. And that is why this effort to seek this window to support the people of Sudan who are suffering,” said Mwencha. “Creating a corridor means some kind of understanding between the warring parties, and what is on the table is the cessation of hostilities is extremely important.”
At a recent meeting organized by IGAD, regional leaders agreed to put pressure on the warring factions to resolve the conflict in South Sudan.
Mwencha says the decision of the regional leaders should be revisited since the two factions have refused to sign a ceasefire agreement in spite of international pressure.
“Perhaps there is need now to review the status of these negotiations to see what the international community can do. And that is why we are redoubling efforts to bring pressure to bear beyond which of course the international community can decide what the next step should be,” said Mwencha.
The violence erupted after President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, accused former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup. Mr. Macher who is in hiding has denied the accusation. News reports say ethnic tension between the two groups is partly fueling the conflict, with members of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups targeting each other.