U.S. Calls for Immediate Talks in South Sudan
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 25, 2013 American officials including Secretary of State John F. Kerry have made calls to leaders throughout Africa and the world seeking a solution to the crisis in South Sudan, U.S. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said in a statement issued yesterday.
Kerry yesterday urged both South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar to accept a cessation of hostilities and begin mediated political talks, according to Psaki.
U.S. Special Envoy Donald E. Booth is in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to attempt to secure final commitment from both President Kiir and Former Vice President Machar to begin talks, and is working with leaders from the Inter-Governmental Authority for Government nations to arrange for the negotiations to begin in the coming days, Psaki said.
The United States urges all parties in the crisis in South Sudan to implement an immediate cessation of hostilities, the State Department spokesman said. This will offer critical humanitarian access to populations in dire need, he said, and open a space for a mediated political dialogue between the opposing sides.
“The ability of the parties to implement the ceasefire will send a strong signal to the citizens of South Sudan and the world that as leaders they have the courage to accept compromise and work for the best interests of all of the people of this young nation, Psaki said in the statement. “We hope and pray today that the leaders of South Sudan will acknowledge the international community’s commitment and understand that those who seek to take or hold power by violence or division along ethnic lines will not have our support and may be in violation of international law. Violence today will not pave the way for a more stable or prosperous tomorrow.”
Tensions within South Sudan, the world’s youngest country which only gained independence in 2011 after seceding from Sudan, burst out into open conflict on Dec. 15 when President Salva Kiir's government said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed in July, launched an attempted coup, according to a U.N. news release issued yesterday. Mr. Kiir belongs to the Dinka ethnic group and Mr. Machar to the Lou Nuer, according to the release.
In a resolution passed yesterday under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which authorizes the use of force, the 15-member U.N. Security Council demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and the immediate opening of a dialogue between the rival factions. The Security Council condemned the fighting and violence targeted against civilians and specific ethnic and other communities as well as attacks and threats against the U.N. Mission in South Sudan.
The U.N. Security Council also voted yesterday to temporarily increase the number of U.N. peacekeeping troops in South Sudan from around 7,000 to 12,500 and the U.N.’s police from 900 to 1,323, according to the U.N. release.
On Dec. 21, four U.S. service members were injured in South Sudan when they attempted to evacuate Americans from the town of Bor, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement. They were hit by small-arms fire by unknown forces when their three CV-22 Osprey aircraft attempted to land in Bor.
Three of the injured troops were later evacuated to Landstuhl Army Hospital in Germany. The fourth person, who’s currently in a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, will be evacuated when his condition stabilizes.
The commander of Africom, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, is repositioning forces in East Africa in an effort to attain maximum flexibility to respond to State Department requests, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters yesterday.
Based on the situation in South Sudan, Rodriguez had moved elements from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response from Moron, Spain, to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
Later on, a platoon-sized element and a KC-130J aircraft from that task force was moved from Djibouti to Entebbe, Uganda, according to an Africom statement issued yesterday. This forward posturing, the statement said, provides the combatant commander additional options and the ability to more quickly respond, if required, to help protect U.S. personal and facilities.
This movement was made with the full knowledge and cooperation of Ugandan authorities, the Africom statement said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been following the situation in South Sudan very closely, and is in nearly continuous communication with the combatant commander, Pentagon officials said.
On Dec. 22, the United States -- in coordination with the United Nations and in consultation with the South Sudanese government -- safely evacuated American citizens from Bor, according to a U.S. State Department press statement.
President Barack Obama, who is in Hawaii for his annual vacation, is being briefed on the situation in South Sudan, according to White House officials.
The aircraft and U.S. service members that were fired on Dec. 21 in South Sudan were on a mission “to protect U.S. citizens, personnel and property,” Obama wrote in a letter dated Dec. 22 that was forwarded to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
“As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel, and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan,” the president added.
South Sudan's leaders, Obama said in a Dec. 21 White House release, must know that continued violence will endanger the people of South Sudan and the hard-earned progress of independence. This conflict can only be resolved peacefully through negotiations. Any effort to seize power through the use of military force, the release said, will result in the end of longstanding support from the United States and the international community.