Engagement of regional countries “good thing” for South Sudan peace process
The engagement of countries in eastern Africa in a process aimed at revitalizing the peace process and bringing an end to conflict in South Sudan is a “good thing” the head of global UN peacekeeping operations has said.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who is the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, was speaking on Wednesday in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, following a meeting with the country’s President Salva Kiir.
The conflict in South Sudan began in December 2013 and since then a humanitarian crisis has developed which has left more than 5.5 million people in need of aid. Some 1.7 million refugees have also fled to neighbouring countries.
“We discussed the initiative of IGAD towards the revitalization of the peace process,” Mr Lacroix said, adding that there was a convergence of opinion that it was “a good thing” that the eight countries in the regional bloc “are more engaged in helping South Sudan and its people.”
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development or IGAD agreed in July to set up a high-level forum to work across the region to get the South Sudanese peace process back on track.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on his first official visit to South Sudan met with senior government officials including the First Vice-President Taban Deng, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deng Alor and the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Lomuro as well as a number of other ministers.
The Peacekeeping chief said that there was a “shared understanding” with the government that “actions and initiatives to advance peace are important” and that they have to be put in place “to accelerate the implementation of the Peace Agreement and bring sustainable peace” to the young nation.
Mr Lacroix underlined that the peace process could not move forward if fighting continued. He pledged the continued support of the UN towards providing aid for the most vulnerable people in South Sudan.
“UN humanitarian agencies are doing their best to help South Sudanese and we look forward to further cooperation with the Government so that we can access populations in distress wherever the needs are.”
The peacekeeping chief is also visiting Malakal in the north of the country, where the UN Mission In South Sudan (UNMISS) is protecting more than 30,000 internally displaced people living in its Protection of Civilians site.