KIGALI, Jul 17 – Renewed fighting in South Sudan that has claimed more than 300 lives is set to dominate an African Union summit due to open Sunday in the Rwandan capital Kigali.
A shaky ceasefire has held since late Monday following the fighting that raged for four days in the South Sudanese capital Juba, leaving hundreds dead and forcing 40,000 to flee their homes.
The violence echoed the fighting that triggered the civil war and marks a fresh blow to last year’s deal to end the bitter conflict that began when President Salva Kiir accused ex-rebel and now Vice President Riek Machar of plotting a coup.
The unrest has also plunged into doubt a peace deal struck in August 2015 between the two sides.
Speaking to the regional grouping IGAD in Kigali on Saturday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said a “critical stage” in the South Sudan crisis had been reached.
“Now is the time to send a strong message to the South Sudanese leadership,” he said.
“The people of South Sudan have been let down by their own leadership. Their hopes and dreams have been tarnished at the expense of warring parties enriching and empowering themselves.
“We cannot and will not tolerate this. The engagement of all is needed to provide a framework that will address the current security crisis but also human rights,” he added.
– Crises shaking continent –
South Sudan is just one of the crises shaking the continent that African leaders will address during the summit.
The AU will also seek to hammer out a solution to the crisis engulfing Burundi where a spate of killings have rocked the country since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announced in April 2015 that he would seek a third term.
Also on the crowded AU agenda will be the ongoing fight against the Boko Haram jihadist group that has its roots in northern Nigeria but has carried out attacks across the Lake Chad region.
Recent violent incidents in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also expected to feature in the talks.
Efforts to secure peace in the South Sudan and elsewhere, however, will be complicated by divisions over who should succeed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of South African President Jacob Zuma, to become the AU’s new commission chair.
Several countries on the continent have indicated that they do not back any of the leading candidates for the job, arguing that they “lack stature”.
Now all three of the leading candidates — Botswana’s Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, her Guinean opposite number Agapito Mba Mokuy and Uganda’s former vice president Specioza Wandira-Kazibwe — look like they may fail to get a majority of votes from the African Union’s 54 members.
If that happens the vote could be abandoned and re-run at the next AU summit in Addis Ababa in January 2017