By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
July 18, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian Prime Minister, who is also chairperson of the regional bloc (IGAD), Hailemariam Desalegn met on Sunday with the United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and discussed South Sudan’s recent crisis.
- UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon (UN)
The two met at margins of the 27th African Union summit held in Kigali, Rwanda.
The two sides expressed concern over the resurgence of the conflict in South Sudan and said upsurge in further fighting was “intolerable”.
“The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister expressed alarm at the situation in South Sudan and the risk of further escalation, with far-reaching consequences for the country and its people, as well as for the region,” read a statement Sudan Tribune obtained.
Last week’s fresh hostilities in the world’s youngest nation reportedly left about 300 people dead after days of fighting between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President, Riek Machar.
Machar who fled the capital Juba on Monday following the major outbreak of the deadly violence has urged the UN to establish “buffer zone” between his forces and those of the government.
A ceasefire unilaterally declared on Tuesday last week has held. But situations remain tense and there is potential for eruption of violence.
The UN chief and the Ethiopian Prime Minister said South Sudan’s rival leaders should play leading roles in urgently resolving the latest crisis.
Both leaders further underscored the need for the international community and regional actors to put their collective efforts towards ensuring the implementation of the peace agreement so that the world’s youngest nation does not slide back to a full-scale conflict.
“They agreed on the need for an urgent and enhanced international action to avert full blown violence and further atrocities, and put back on track the implementation process of the agreement on resolution of the conflict in South Sudan,” the UN said.
They also discussed regional security, its challenges and climate change.
Ki-moon, the Ethiopian government said, commended Addis Ababa for promoting regional peace and security by contributing peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General called on the IGAD leaders to engage in more engagement in South Sudan’s peace process.
“I know many of you have worked hard to secure peace for the world’s youngest country and I know all of us agree that we cannot afford South Sudan slipping back into a civil war,” he said, warning South Sudan leaders they will be held accountable for their actions.
Ki-moon called on the UN security Council to impose an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan, to enact additional targeted sanctions and to fortify the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)
“Now is the time for decisive and collective action”, he stressed.
According to the UN chief, restoration of the transitional national unity government will depend on the full demilitarization of Juba.
“We support the proposal by the Chiefs of the Defense Staff/Forces of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda to reinforce UNMISS with troops from the region under the same unity of mandate and command and contribute in assisting the stabilization of South Sudan. Other troops will probably also be necessary”, he said.
South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013 after Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt, allegations the latter denied.
However, a peace deal signed by the two rival political leaders in August last year under regional and international pressure led to the formation of the transitional government of national unity in April.