AU wants 'quick solutions' to South Sudan conflict

2016-07-19 10:56

Kigali – South Sudan has topped the peace and security agenda at the recent African Union summit, with leaders looking for a "quick solution" to the recent outbreak of violence there.

AU peace and security commissioner Smail Chergui told journalists, following the end of the AU summit on Monday, that heads of states "indicated we have to be on the side of the people of South Sudan, but also (wanted to see) how we can find a quick solution to what happened and get back to the work of the transition government".

The AU has backed a request for more African troops to reinforce the United Nations mission in the country (UNMIS) with a "robust peace enforcement" mandate should violence break out there again.

"The UN does not have the mandate to impose peace," Chergui said. "They are there when there is peace to keep. That is the added value of African troops in African countries, they are ready to engage in difficult situations, even without the necessary equipment and personnel."

He said work also needed to start on implementing South Sudan’s peace agreement, which was facilitated by the AU and signed last year after violence broke out in 2013 in the world's newest country. South Sudan's five-year anniversary of independence was this month.

This agreement contained a timeline for working on reconciliation and healing.

The humanitarian crisis also needed to be addressed, Chergui said.

The regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development, together with the G5 – five countries tasked with supporting the peace talks, including South Africa – had a special meeting on Saturday evening to talk about developments.

In their communiqué, they called on the UN Security Council to extend UNMISS with a revised mandate to deploy a regional protection force to separate South Sudan’s warring parties.

There is no time frame as yet for the deployment, as it would depend on the UN’s response to the proposal.

Chergui said the AU also asked for "strict observance of the ceasefire", which he said was holding after a brief outbreak of violence in the capital Juba earlier this month.

He said the warring parties also needed to get back to working on building the transitional government, which formed part of the peace agreement.

President Jacob Zuma, who attended the IGAD plus G5 meeting on Saturday, said: "As the youngest country on the continent, we should continue to assist South Sudan in nation-building."

In a statement issued by the Presidency, he said South Sudan was a priority for South Africa partly because the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) has been very close to the ANC and other former liberation movements on the continent.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is Zuma's Special Envoy to South Sudan and has been involved in efforts to help reconcile the warring factions in the party.

Burundi - where the recent assassination of Hasfa Mossi, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly and former Burundian minister, has caused shockwaves - was also discussed, Chergui said. The AU was concerned about the targeted assassinations, the violation of human rights and the plight of displaced people and refugees at a time of economic difficulties.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council travelled to Burundi last month to look at how it could improve the inclusive dialogue between Burundians.

However, all indications at the summit were that this could be an uphill process, after Burundi recalled its delegation to the summit last Monday, with the way the dialogue was being conducted reportedly being one of their objections.

Libya, Mali, Somalia and a special fund to fight terrorism also featured in the AU’s discussions on security.

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