, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 19 – A senior official in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) on Thursday requested Kenya to help mediate a conflict in neighbouring South Sudan that erupted five days ago.
Choul Laam, who is the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary General, told a news conference in Nairobi that he feared the tense situation in his country could spiral into ethnic cleansing if it was not contained.
This came after Foreign Ministers working under IGAD flew to Juba on Thursday in hopes of helping to end the ongoing fighting in the nascent country.
“The region needs to take responsibility, the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) was actually born here and Kenya knows a lot about what is happening in South Sudan. Kenya can actually lead this with the help Uganda President Museveni or Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and also international community; President Barrack Obama, UK Prime Minister James Cameron, France President Nicolas Hollande and friends of South Sudan can come and assist,” Laam said after he fled Juba on Thursday morning after he was cautioned that he could be targeted by protagonists in the conflict.
He said Kenya and Uganda (which hold the Intergovernmental Authority on Development presidency) are best placed to lead the peace negotiations after they mid-wifed the signing of the 2004 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a 40 year old war with Khartoum.
The delegation of East African foreign ministers is the first delegation to arrive in Juba since fighting erupted on Sunday. The envoys hope their tour will help end the ongoing fighting in the nascent country.
South Sudan has been rocked by clashes since Sunday after President Salva Kiir accused sacked Vice-President Riek Machar of leading a failed a coup attempt against his government.
Laam confirmed that more than 700 people, both military troops and civilians have been killed, while at least 800 people had been injured during the chaos.
“There is a very serious tension in South Sudan… if it is not contained, it will go into the rest of the country, he added. “Until critical steps are taken there will be more bloodshed.”
“I have seen bodies lying on the street they have not been collected. Although calm now, if there is no unity from the leaders it will escalate into a tribal issue and people will take matters into their own hands.”
Laam, a former chief negotiator during the country’s post-cessation discussions with neighbouring Sudan, called on the Juba government to release more than 10 leading SPLM figures who appeared recently in a press conference with the former Vice-President Machar to oppose President Kiir’s governing style.
“Unfortunately, President Kiir was misled by his close advisors and has used the recent violence as a pretext to arrest long term friends and heroes of the people whose only officer is merely disagreeing with President Kiir’s governing style,” Laam stated.