The United Nations has warned that ongoing conflict in South Sudan could become “another Rwanda;” that, as the threat of famine looms over the country, millions may face certain death should leaders not arrive at peace. Secretary of State John Kerry, currently in South Sudan, announced new talks yesterday.
According to the New York Times, Kerry announced that he had spoken to both South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and rebel leader Rick Mahar. The former, Kerry claimed, had given him “a commitment” that he would attend peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, moderated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Mahar had given indications that he would be open to discussions, but no such promises have been made.
Kerry also noted that neighboring African countries had committed to sending more UN peacekeeping troops, though the 2,500 he promised were significantly less than the number originally anticipated. Other reports noted that Kerry had also brought up the possibility of United States sanctions against Kiir and Mahar directly, intended to persuade them that they, too, would personally benefit from an end to the violence.
However, no such sanctions were explicitly discussed publicly on this trip. Rather, United States Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has urged other nations to engage in sanctioning the leaders propelling this violence after they have all but ignored January’s ceasefire.
The United States is not the only international entity involved in trying to solve the South Sudan crisis. Reports note that China has been attempting to negotiate with neighboring countries in Africa to send peacekeeping troops into the nation. Some have suggested that China has interests in the nation’s large oil reserves, and as such seeks a role in ending the conflict and protecting the nation’s oil fields. The Kingdom of Jordan has also been vocal in UN discussions about the need for international efforts to intervene in the struggle.
This latest round of peace talks would be the second after negotiations in December, which yielded a ceasefire technically still in place. Thousands have died during the ceasefire, as neither side fully adhered to its provisions. A report by the United Nations released last week found that 9,000 child soldiers had been recruited to fight on both sides of the war in the time following the ceasefire. The Times reiterates that thousands have died in the conflict, while millions left the country and currently seek refugee status elsewhere.