Seven months of conflict have put a damper on the third anniversary of Africa’s newest country, South Sudan.
The country came into being on July 9, 2011, following a UN supported referendum and today UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on South Sudan’s leaders to lay down arms and “immediately” return to negotiations to end the ongoing crisis.
In December last year political in-fighting between President Saliva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar escalated into a full-fledged conflict that has seen 1,5 million people uprooted and over seven million placed at risk of hunger and disease.
The top UN man pointed out “thousands have been killed and atrocities committed against civilians” since hostilities started.
“The South Sudanese people are bearing the brunt of the failure to stop the fighting. They are living in squalor, their livelihoods have been lost and they are plagued by hunger, disease and insecurity.
“The Secretary-General reminds the leaders of South Sudan that this is a man-made crisis. It is their responsibility and within their power to stop it. He calls on them to live up to the expectations of their people, lay down their arms and return immediately to the negotiation table,” Ban’s statement said.
In the South Sudanese capital, Juba, outgoing UN envoy Hilde Johnson said prior to departing the country the losses brought on by the crisis have been “heart-breaking.”
“The country has now been set back decades. The terrible destruction of towns and property is one thing, but the divisions and wounds are deeper than ever. The gulf between communities is abysmal and the animosity is worse than we have ever seen at any point in South Sudanese history.
“As the people of South Sudan prepare to celebrate the third anniversary of their nation’s independence they see a country at grave risk, not only of fighting, but also of failing.”