US Diplomat Says South Sudan Peace Agreement needs to be Renegotiated

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The top U.S. diplomat for Africa says South Sudan’s peace process is not on track and government and rebel leaders need to resume negotiations.

In an exclusive interview, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA “the people of South Sudan have suffered for too many years … and two years after their independence, they are being tortured, harassed and forced into refugee status again because of lack of leadership of their two major leaders.”

The world’s youngest nation has been rocked by more than two-and-a-half years of ethnically charged fighting that has displaced over 2 million people, with nearly 1 million fleeing to other countries.

A peace deal between the government and the rebels a year ago has failed to end the conflict, and last month Juba was rocked by several days of heavy fighting between forces of President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his rival, Riek Machar.

Machar was first vice president in South Sudan’s transitional government but was replaced by another opposition figure, Taban Deng Gai, after going into hiding in mid-July. He was reported Thursday to be in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Thomas-Greenfield said, “In terms of appointment of individuals, we have to allow the South Sudan government to make those appointments. We, too, wonder why this decision was made. We are hoping there’s a possibility that Dr. Machar comes back to Juba and they are able to continue the process [that existed]before the situation occurred in July.”

The U.N. Security Council voted Friday to send a “regional protection force” to South Sudan, a move the opposition requested.

“The regional protection force has been created in response to the collapse of security in Juba, and it will remain until South Sudan’s leaders take the steps necessary to provide that security for their own people,” said David Pressman, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for special political affairs.

Thomas-Greenfield said the United States is committed to seeing the current situation end, while working closely with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an East Africa bloc, to implement the regional security force for Juba so parties can move the peace agreement forward.

U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Molly Phee told VOA on Thursday that the deployment of the troops was not solely a U.S. exercise, but a partnership between the U.S. and IGAD, of which South Sudan is a member. She stressed that “American policy toward South Sudan and the people of South Sudan has been constant for decades. We have always wanted to support the people of South Sudan against oppression and discrimination.”

She said accusations by South Sudanese officials that the United States was trying to undermine their country were “not true.”

Source: Voice of America