– Going after the leaders –
The war broke out on December 15 following a clash within the presidential guard and rapidly escalated as soldiers took sides with either President Salva Kiir or his sacked deputy, Riek Machar.
The conflict quickly took on an ethnic dimension, with Kiir drawing support from the ethnic Dinka community and Machar from his Nuer tribe. Thousands and possibly tens of thousands of people have died while over a million have been forced from their homes.
To further complicate matters on the ground, the notorious ethnic Nuer “White army” has joined the fray on the side of Machar’s patchwork rebel force, neighbouring Uganda is backing Kiir while rival militias from neighbouring Sudan have reportedly been joining in.
Both the government and rebel forces have been accused of committing war crimes, including massacres, rape and child soldier recruitment, and Prendergast said concrete action on this could also be used as a way to halt the fighting.
“When you actually start freezing the assets, seizing the cars and the houses in Kenya and Ethiopia that are owned by most of these senior officials in government and the rebellion, when you start sending their kids home from schools… then it starts to get their attention,” he said.
“We have both sides committing atrocities, so it’s easy to say we’re going to go after individuals on both sides. There’s some level of even-handedness, with very specific targeted sanctions, very specific asset freezes.”
Casie Copeland of the International Crisis Group, an international conflict resolution think-tank, said the South Sudanese currently have no intent to stop fighting – even though they are paying lip service to peace talks being held in Ethiopia and signed a ceasefire in January.
“The two warring parties right now prefer to seek a solution on the battlefield rather than through peace talks,” she said.
“Peace talks in Addis produced a ceasefire which was almost immediately violated, and right now we are seeing little commitment from either side to a negotiated solution. There needs to be concerted political action.”