U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned South Sudan’s warring leaders that U.S. aid would evaporate if they failed to halt the spiraling violence that has plunged the world’s youngest nation into a humanitarian emergency.
Kerry was in Nairobi for talks with regional allies on South Sudan, where the breakdown of a peace deal last month has resulted in hundreds of deaths, mass rapes and attacks against aid workers. Two Chinese peacekeepers deployed with the United Nations mission in the country, known as UNMISS, have also been killed.
The U.N. and victims have alleged that government forces were responsible for much of the violence against civilians in the capital, Juba, last month. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir called the allegations grave and pledged to investigate.
Kerry said Washington planned to add $138 million this year to help with food and medicine needs but stressed that continued aid would be contingent on political progress.
“We made it crystal clear that this is not forever. We’re not just going to fill in the void and provide help incessantly if they’re not prepared to do what’s necessary for their people,” Kerry said.
The U.S.—the biggest donor to South Sudan—has played a vital role in helping the nation emerge from a decades-long war of independence against Sudan that ended in 2011. It has spent $1.6 billion since the conflict along ethnic lines erupted in South Sudan in December 2013.
A power-sharing deal that sought to calm the long-running feud between Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar collapsed weeks ago. Machar last week fled to neighboring Congo but still commands thousands of soldiers at home.
Kerry called the situation in South Sudan “tragic and reprehensible” but stopped short of singling out government forces for alleged atrocities. “Warring parties have abused noncombatants, especially women and girls,” he said.
He also said that a new 4,000-strong force, made up of troops from South Sudan’s neighbors and mandated under the U.N. to help protect Juba specifically, would help provide security for civilians and improve the mobility and effectiveness of troops already there under UNMISS.
His Kenyan counterpart, Amina Mohamed, said details were being discussed. She said it was important that a “gradual deployment” happen “sooner, not later,” but didn’t provide details.
UNMISS has been heavily criticized for failing to intervene to protect civilian lives in July in Juba, and for failing to help South Sudanese women as well as Western aid workers who were sexually assaulted close to its base in separate incidents, according to eyewitnesses and a preliminary U.N. investigation. UNMISS is now investigating both cases.
Kerry said the U.S. government had been assured aid agencies would be allowed “unfettered access for the delivery of this and other humanitarian needs,” by South Sudan’s government. Earlier this month, Juba banned the U.N. World Food Program from delivering food by air from Ethiopia for two weeks and confiscated dozens of humanitarian workers’ passports.
Separately, Kerry said an additional $170 million in U.S. aid will be channeled to Somalia, in particular to support refugees, those returning to the country and drought victims there.
The U.N. refugee agency will get an extra $29 million specifically to manage the return of Somali refugees from Kenyan camps, especially Dadaab, following a decision by Kenya to shut it down.
Mr. Kerry said any such return of refugees would have to happen “in keeping with international refugee law.”
Asked about talks between the U.S. and Russia on combating Islamic State, Kerry said: “It is my hope that we are reaching the end of those discussions, one way or the other.” He added that this week U.S. and Russian teams would meet and that “it is very possible, even likely” that he may meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov afterward.
Source: Wall Street Journal