Leaders of the warring parties in South Sudan have expressed readiness for peace talks as thousands fall victim to the conflict in the world’s youngest nation.
During a ceremony on Wednesday marking the anniversary of the country’s three years of independence, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir called on the leader of the rebels and former Vice President Riek Machar to resume peace talks.
“I still renew my call upon him to accept the logic of peaceful resolution to the conflict so that we resolve this issue,” he said.
In a swift response, Machar also said he was ready to resume dialog but warned that his troops would target the country’s oil installations if fighting resumed and the government used oil revenues to buy arms.
In a statement earlier this week, the United Nations called on the leaders of South Sudan’s warring sides to resume peace negotiations to end the country’s months-long conflict.
The chief of the UN mission in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, also lashed out at both the government and rebels, calling them “self-serving elite” responsible for a looming “man-made famine” in the country.
South Sudan plunged into violence in mid-December last year, when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup. Thousands have died and more than 1.5 million people have fled their homes since the conflict erupted, often pitting Kiir’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer community.
The fighting has reduced significantly since the latest ceasefire agreement was signed in May; but, the negotiations being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between the two factions have reportedly stalled.