Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday welcomed the appointment of a mediation team to work with Government of South Sudan and the opposition towards reaching a ceasefire to end the current conflict, which has taken a heavy toll on the world's youngest nation.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban commended the East African regional bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for its efforts and the outcome reached at its summit on 27 December.
At yesterday's meeting of heads of State and government, held in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, IGAD issued a communiqué in which it condemned the violent escalation of conflict in South Sudan.
The conflict began on 15 December when President Salva Kiir's Government said soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, dismissed in July, launched an attempted coup. The fighting has led to well over a thousand deaths and the displacement of at least 122,000 people, some 63,000 of whom have taken refuge in United Nations bases in the country.
IGAD leaders called on all parties to refrain from steps that will inflame the conflict further particularly along ethnic and sectarian lines, and strongly condemned the “bankrupt and opportunistic ideology” of ethnic and religious sectarianism.
The regional bloc welcomed the commitment by the Government of South Sudan on immediately beginning unconditional dialogue with all stakeholders and to an immediate cessation of hostilities. It called on Mr. Machar and other parties to make similar commitments.
The summit also determined that if hostilities do not cease within four days of the issuance of the communiqué, IGAD will consider taking further measures.
“All violence, attacks and human rights abuses must end immediately,” said Mr. Ban's spokesperson.
“The Secretary-General reminds those responsible that they will be held accountable. He calls on the Government and all concerned to ensure the rights and security of civilians are protected.”
The statement also reiterated that the UN stands with the people of South Sudan and will continue to do everything within its means to protect civilians at risk and provide necessary humanitarian assistance.
Yesterday the first group of reinforcements – 72 police from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – arrived in the capital, Juba, to assist the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) with the growing numbers of displaced in the UN compounds.
The UN is working with other peacekeeping missions in the region, as well as troop and police contributing countries, to quickly move troops and equipment, especially helicopters, into South Sudan to strengthen the protection of civilians.