Ceasefire monitors in South Sudan urged warring forces Thursday to stop fighting amid growing international fears a key peace deal is close to collapse.
Fighting in the nearly two-year long war rages despite an August agreement, said Festus Mogae, who heads the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), set up by the regional IGAD-bloc to ensure the peace deal is implemented.
“The agreement offers the way forward for a peaceful South Sudan, I urge the parties to accelerate the implementation process,” the former president of Botswana told reporters in Juba, adding he was deeply concerned at “continued fighting” in northern Unity state.
The United States, Britain and Norway, key backers of the peace process, have warned the deal could collapse if the rivals continue to miss deadlines.
“Each day, the fighting and abuses continue, and an already grave humanitarian situation grows worse,” a joint statement late Wednesday read. “We urge South Sudan’s leaders to establish the transitional government now and recommit to the timeline of the agreement, or the peace process will unravel.”
Civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week warned that the broken ceasefire and failure to meet deadlines cast doubt on the “commitment to the peace process.”
Ban said “grave violations” against children continue — including killing, rape, maiming and child soldier recruitment — while “sexual violence remains a key feature” of the war.
“Rape, gang rape, abduction, sexual slavery, forced abortion and mutilation of women’s bodies have been perpetrated by all sides,” he said in the report.
The conflict has triggered a humanitarian crisis with 2.3 million people forced from their homes and 4.6 million in need of emergency food. Tens of thousands have died and the economy is in ruins.