U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had strong words for the leaders in South Sudan Thursday, telling them to find an inclusive power-sharing arrangement and end the instability and violence their country has endured over the past nine months.
Ban addressed his remarks to President Salva Kiir and his former vice president and political rival, Riek Machar.
“You opened the wounds that have caused so much suffering. Now heal them," said Ban.
South Sudan has been mired in conflict since December. The U.N. chief said the violence has killed tens of thousands and uprooted nearly two million people. Instead of thriving, he warned that South Sudan is failing.
Talks to end the violence resumed last week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and mediators have warned that time is running out.
Ban said he is appalled by the dire humanitarian situation South Sudan has been thrown into because of the political infighting.
“Around four million people - more than a third of the country - suffer alarming food insecurity. Unless we act quickly, some 50,000 children could die before the end of this year," he said.
The United Nations is sheltering nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing the violence at its bases in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity State, and the capital, Juba.
Human rights groups have demanded that the U.N. Security Council impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against the warring parties.
The U.N. has deployed an additional 5,000 peacekeepers to reinforce its mission in South Sudan. The final battalion of about 700 troops is due to arrive from China next month.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous expressed his frustration with the parties, saying it has been a “very long story of agreements made, but none kept.” He added that there can be no military solution to the conflict, and those who impede peace negotiations or commit atrocities will ultimately have to face consequences.
“There will be no amnesty for those people or leaders who have been responsible for killing innocent civilians that had sought refuge in schools, in hospitals, in places of worship," said Ladsous.
Kiir was expected to attend the high-level meeting, which included the chairperson of the African Union Commission, the U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and representatives of several governments. When he failed to show up, Kiir’s foreign minister said the president was detained at another meeting.