South Sudan ‘risks falling into an abyss’

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IOL pic jan31 south sudan unrest Reuters A rebel fighter returns from the frontline in a rebel-controlled territory in Jonglei State, South Sudan. Picture: Goran Tomasevic

Juba - Monitors of South Sudan's fragile ceasefire must deploy immediately, top diplomats warned on Friday, as regional leaders met to bolster peace efforts for the war-torn young nation.

Clashes continue despite the deal signed last week by government and rebels, brokered by the East African bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

IGAD teams are meant to ensure the warring sides honour their deal, but many fear the unarmed observers will struggle to monitor loose frontlines between multiple forces in a vast country with few roads.

Leaders of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan met on the sidelines of the final day of an African Union summit, where the bloodshed in South Sudan has been a key focus.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn warned on Thursday that South Sudan faced “falling into the abyss” without urgent action.

IGAD special envoy Seyoum Mesfin urged leaders to set up ceasefire monitoring teams within 48 hours, and called on rival sides to ensure a “progressive withdrawal” of forces from frontlines.

Both UN special envoy Haile Menkerios and US special envoy Donald Booth said it was “critical” monitoring teams be put swiftly in place to report on any violations, including by foreign forces.

Teams must be “provided with the necessary political and logistical support as well as unfettered access”, Haile said.

Both government and rebels accused each other of violating the deal but insist they are committed to ending a bloodshed in which thousands have killed and more than 800,000 forced from their homes.

“Those who might seek to undermine the peace process should know that we are all watching, and that there will be consequences for such would-be spoilers,” Booth added. - AFP



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