By Taddeo Bwambale
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has condemned the latest wave of fighting that broke out in South Sudan’s Bentui region on Friday.
The clashes ensued barely 48 hours after a UN Security Council team left the country after an assessment mission, and hardly a week to the next IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government summit.
IGAD special envoys for South Sudan, who are mediating peace talks to end the country’s eight-month conflict, vowed to probe the latest clashes and expose the mastermind of the violence.
In a statement on Friday, mediators described the latest fighting as a violation of the ceasefire agreement signed by South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, and his former deputy-turned-rebel leader, Riek Machar.
The mediators warned that such clashes could undermine efforts to bring the warring factions to commit to a new peace accord.
“The envoys condemn in the strongest terms the continued flagrant violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that was signed on 23 January 2014 by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and SPLM/A-in Opposition,” mediators said in a statement.
“IGAD is currently carrying out investigations to establish details of the fighting which will expose the culprit, as continued violations of COH on ground continue to undermine the ongoing peace process in Addis Ababa.”
South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar (C) and wife Angelina Tang meet with Sudan President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum, as a deadline passed to end the civil war. (AFP)
The mediators said they were “dismayed” by the latest fighting but urged warring parties to adhere to the provisions of the ceasefire agreement and demonstrate full commitment to the ongoing peace process.
“The special envoys also reiterate that military advances to gain more ground by any party will not achieve anything except to worsen the already catastrophic humanitarian situation and to cause further devastation,” mediators warned.
The latest clashes come at a time when the warring factions failed to reach an agreement on the formation of a transitional government during the fifth session of peace talks in Addis Ababa last week.
Both South Sudan government and Machar’s teams have traded barbs for not adhering to IGAD’s call for a transitional government and a commitment to end hostilities in the world’s newest nation.
On May 9, Machar and Kiir met face-to-face and signed an agreement committing to end hostilities, whose terms did not hold after fighting erupted shortly thereafter in several parts of South Sudan.
The fighting in South Sudan that started in December last year has claimed over 1,500 lives and displaced thousands, leading to a humanitarian crisis.