Today, the people of South Sudan expected a political agreement that would deliver a transitional government to steer them out of conflict and bring an end to the violence that has engulfed the country for eight months.
Instead, the leaders of South Sudan have failed to set aside their differences, and fighting continues to ravage the country as a famine looms.
Oxfam Australia Humanitarian Advocacy Lead Steph Cousins said that both parties to the conflict agreed 60 days ago they would end the fighting and establish a transitional government of national unity during Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-brokered peace talks.
“On the eve of the date agreed to establish a national unity government, talks have faltered yet again, rendering this commitment seemingly impossible to achieve,” Ms Cousins said.
“This humanitarian crisis is nothing short of a man-made disaster. This conflict must end now – there is no military solution to be won.”
Ms Cousins said the only real solutions to prevent further deterioration were a genuine commitment to peace and an immediate and lasting ceasefire.
“There is an urgent need for the international community to show a united front and use all its diplomatic influence to ensure both parties engage meaningfully in the talks and listen to the diversity of voices in South Sudan,” Ms Cousins said.
While mediated talks are faltering, the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance is being hampered by insecurity and increasing attacks, including the tragic killings last week of several humanitarian workers in Maban County in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan, because of their ethnicity.
“The senseless deaths of these aid workers, after their tireless efforts to provide assistance to the people in need, are simply incomprehensible”, Ms Cousins said.
“Communities trapped by fighting and in hard to reach areas must be able to safely access life-saving assistance, and there must be zero tolerance on obstacles to aid by all parties.
“We call on all parties to the conflict to immediately stop the targeting of aid workers, to respect international humanitarian law and to allow humanitarian agencies access to reach those in need.
“While aid workers will continue to strive to meet the rising needs of the people, a political solution is desperately needed. This has to happen at the negotiation tables in Addis Ababa. This political impasse can’t go on any longer – the people of South Sudan have suffered too much.”
Since December, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting, including more than 400,000 who have fled the country seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
Within South Sudan, four million people are facing alarming levels of hunger, as humanitarian agencies gear up to the challenge of delivering the world’s largest aid operation in response.
“The impact of this conflict – and the complete inability of both parties to bring it to an end – has been catastrophic for the people of South Sudan,” Ms Cousins said.
For interviews please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801.