ADDIS ABABA, May 19- Mediators announced Monday a two-week pause for South Sudan’s struggling peace talks as the civil war raged despite a ceasefire agreement and warnings of famine.
Despite heavy international pressure, a second ceasefire this month for the world’s youngest nation has crumbled, in a six-month war that has already claimed thousands — possibly tens of thousands — of lives.
On Monday, mediators from the regional East African bloc IGAD said the two negotiation teams in the Ethiopian capital had drawn up “working documents” on how to implement the ceasefire and solve the crisis, as they announced a break until June 4.
Aid agencies have warned the young nation faces catastrophe if fighting continues amid famine and genocide warnings, while health officials last week reported at least two deaths from a much-feared cholera outbreak.
Donors will meet in Norway’s capital Oslo on Tuesday to drum up funds, with UN appeals for 1.8 billion dollars (1.3 billion euros) funded only by around a third.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir told the BBC he “cannot deny” there will be famine if the war continues, which has now entered its sixth month.
“We have to stop this fighting so that we save the people’s lives, for people not to die of hunger,” he said in a BBC interview broadcast Monday.
The conflict started with Kiir accusing former vice president Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Machar then fled to the bush to launch a rebellion, insisting the president had attempted to carry out a bloody purge of his rivals.
The war in the world’s youngest nation has claimed thousands — possibly tens of thousands — of lives, with more than 1.3 million people forced to flee their homes.
Oxfam’s South Sudan country director Cecilia Milan said in a statement Monday aid workers “must act now to prevent a rapidly escalating food crisis”, as well as raising concern of the cholera outbreak, with 138 cases recorded.
The International Rescue Committee said it had already recorded malnutrition rates in some war zone regions double the level classed by the UN as “critical”.
“Even if there were a total end to the fighting, the humanitarian needs created by the last five months are enormous,” IRC president David Miliband said.