NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 – The IGAD Council of Ministers meeting in Nairobi on Monday demanded an immediate ceasefire in South Sudan, following infighting that has claimed over 150 lives over the past few days.
The Council’s Chairperson Tedros Adhanom said they also wanted an immediate return of all armed forces and weapons into barracks as well as re-opening of all humanitarian corridors, specifically the airport.
“The council condemns in the strongest terms the eruption of fighting on 7th July, 2016 between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-O) in Juba and the huge loss of lives and casualties, as well as destruction of property that still continues unabated,” Adhanom, who is Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister asserted.
The seven-point resolutions included an urgent revision of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan mandate in a bid to establish an intervention brigade and increase numbers of troops from the region to secure Juba.
“The council further condemns the targeting of the UN compound and attempts to prevent civilian populations from getting protection,” he said.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed on her part called on President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar to take charge of the situation, in a bid to avoid further loss of life.
She said the two leaders must assume their responsibility and take immediate measures “to prevail upon their respective military leaders and stop the fighting that continues unabated in Juba and may soon escalate to other areas in South Sudan.”
Asked about the fate of Kenyans residing in Juba, CS Mohamed said all nations were concerned and that was why they had demanded re-opening of the airport, “for people to leave the country at any time they would like to.”
US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec also called on both parties to take charge of their forces while asking IGAD to decide whether it was time regional forces were deployed in Juba, to restore peace and order.
“Urgent priority must be to prevail on all parties in South Sudan to stop the fighting and stabilise the situation. This is critical; this is urgent,” he said.
The United Nations has since expressed deep alarm over days of violence between the army and ex-rebels.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said more than 7,000 people had sought shelter at two compounds in Juba while fighting was also reported in the south-eastern town of Torit where thousands fled to a UN base.
Eight people have been killed and 67 injured at the UN’s so-called “Protection of Civilian” sites in Juba since Sunday.
“UNMISS compounds are caught directly between the fighting and continue to sustain impacts from small arms and heavy weapons fire,” UNMISS said in a statement.
On Monday, the US State Department said it was ordering all non-essential personnel out of the country, and condemned reports that civilian sites had been attacked in the latest bout of violence.
Washington pressed “both leaders and their political allies and commanders to immediately restrain their forces from further fighting, return them to barracks and prevent additional violence and bloodshed,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
“The United States is determined to ensure appropriate measures are taken to hold accountable those responsible for continuing fighting and violations of international humanitarian law, including attacks on the UN Mission in South Sudan and targeting of civilians.”
South Sudan has seen more fighting than peace since independence in July 2011, and an August 2015 peace deal was supposed to end the conflict but fighting has continued despite the establishment of a unity government.
Tens of thousands have died in the violence, with close to three million forced from their homes and nearly five million survive on emergency food rations.
The humanitarian crisis has unfolded alongside an economic one with the currency collapsing and inflation spiralling out of control.