, WASHINGTON, Apr 30 – US Secretary of State John Kerry left late Tuesday on his first major tour of Africa focused on some of the continent’s most brutal wars including the bloodshed in South Sudan.
The trip to Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, seeks to “encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, advance peace and security,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has said.
Kerry, who is due to return to Washington on May 5, will also “engage with civil society and young African leaders, who will shape the continent’s future, and promote trade, investment and development partnerships in Africa.”
On his first stop in Addis Ababa, Kerry will meet with leaders from the African Union, including from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
Ethiopia has been hosting peace talks between South Sudan’s government and rebels aimed at ending a bloody four-month civil war, which has left thousands of people dead and over a million displaced.
The talks resumed again on Monday after long delays but have made little progress.
Kerry is expected to try to press the negotiators to end the fighting amid global outrage over a wave of atrocities in the world’s newest nation, which the US helped give birth to.
Last week the UN Security Council brandished the threat of sanctions against South Sudan government forces, loyal to President Salva Kiir, and rebels behind former vice president Riek Machar.
“We will be delivering tough messages to both sides to indicate… that they will be held accountable if they don’t take the necessary actions to end the hostilities,” a senior State Department official said.
The official confirmed that Washington was still deciding who should be targeted for sanctions.
“We’re working on a list. So that process is moving forward.”
Washington would have sought to prevent the conflict which erupted in December if it had been possible, the official said.
“It is clear that Riek Machar and Salva Kiir do not have their countries’ best good in their hearts,” the diplomat said, asking not to be named.
“I see them fighting a personal battle that has led to the deaths of many people. This is not a battle against – Nuer against Dinka. It is a Riek Machar-Salva Kiir battle, and they have used ethnic tensions and their own ethnicity to foment what has been a horrific war in this country.”