WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged South Sudan’s feuding leaders to show “courage and leadership” Wednesday by halting deadly violence as the nation marks its third anniversary amid a raging civil war.
“It is high time to honor fully the Cessation of Hostilities agreement of January 23 to end the violence, especially the violence being targeted against civilians,” Kerry said in a statement on the independence day of what remains the world’s youngest nation.
“Now is the time for South Sudan’s leaders to show courage and leadership, and to reaffirm their commitment to unity, to reconciliation and accountability, and to a better future for the people of South Sudan.”
The country has been wracked by war since mid-December, when guards loyal to President Salva Kiir clashed with troops supporting his rival and former deputy Riek Machar.
Machar eventually fled to the bush and rallied a huge rebel army, which Kiir has accused of launching renewed attacks in the nearly seven-month-old civil war that has brought South Sudan to the brink of famine.
Rivals Kiir and Machar both used the independence anniversary Wednesday as an opportunity to call on each other to resume peace talks.
“Too much blood has been spilled, and too many lives have been lost, to allow South Sudan’s moment of hope and opportunity to slip from its grasp,” Kerry said.
The fighting has been marked by widespread atrocities, including civilians being dumped in mass graves or murdered in hospitals and churches, and entire towns flattened.
Kerry said the United States “remains committed to supporting the people of South Sudan during this time of incredible difficulty,” and would continue to “lead the international response to the looming humanitarian and refugee crisis.”