The Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has urged leaders of the conflict-ridden country to put their people first and seize the opportunity to compromise, reconcile, and build durable peace.
Speaking at the High-Level Revitalization Forum in Addis Ababa, David Shearer described the human suffering that he had witnessed during a recent visit to the Unity region of South Sudan, which has been plagued by escalating violence.
“I saw the destruction. I saw tukuls that had been burned. I heard of women and young girls that had been raped, people that had been killed, and thousands of others that had fled into the swamps to escape from the violence against them,” he said.
David Shearer, who is also the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, said that the vulnerable people he had spoken to had asked him to take a strong message to the peace talks.
“On behalf of those people today, I’m asking you, requesting of you, pleading with you, and demanding that you – the people in this room – find a way of compromise, of coming together and finding peace and being able to help those people that I met move forward and live decent, prosperous and safe lives.”
The forum is an opportunity for all parties to come together to progress peace talks in the wake of the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Addis Ababa just five months ago.
They are being urged by regional leaders to work together to make the agreement to lay down their weapons a reality.
The Chair of the Council of Ministers of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-country trade bloc in Africa, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, said the Council is ready to act against violators of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.
“There must be compliance with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement – an agreement, let me repeat, that you have all signed,” he said. “We cannot, we will not, tolerate any further violation of the agreement. We are not saying this for the sake of saying it.”
The Chair of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), Festus Mogae, told those at the forum he was confident the parties could overcome all the outstanding issues if they put the interests of the country first.
“There comes a time in life when nothing else should matter more than to do what is right,” he said. “I believe the time is now for all patriots of South Sudan to rise to the occasion. Enough is enough. Let us find in our hearts a place to forgive each other, accommodate one another and rekindle the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood as South Sudanese and take another historic step to rebuild South Sudan.”