January 14th, 2014

Letter to the Editor on South Sudan

In response to the escalating situation in South Sudan, Baroness Cox has led a group of 12 MPs and Peers in writing an open letter to the Times. The letter highlights key aspects of the situation which have not received sufficient attention, such as the impact of the current violence in South Sudan on the ongoing humanitarian crisis just over the border in the Republic of Sudan, particularly in Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur.

A copy of the letter has also been sent directly to David Cameron and William Hague, urging them to strongly support the ongoing IGAD negotiations, with particular reference to the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities and a sustainable political solution.

The text of the letter can be read below, or, if you have a subscription to the Times online, at www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/letters/article3971844.ece.

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The Sunday Times, January 11 2014

Sir, We write to express our utmost concern over the current conflict in South Sudan, with over 1,000 people killed and 200,000 displaced. This is in addition to the 228,000 people already living as refugees in South Sudan, having fled from conflict in the Republic of Sudan. There is an urgent need for an end to fighting to prevent further displacement and suffering.

We are encouraged that the two sides to the conflict are currently meeting in Addis Ababa. However, we are particularly worried that while these events occur in South Sudan, in the Republic of Sudan a systematic campaign of aerial bombardments and other atrocities continues, committed by the government in Khartoum against civilians in South Kordofan, Blue Nile state and Darfur. As the rest of the world turns its attention to South Sudan, the suffering of these people will be forgotten and aid will be diverted or denied.

We are also concerned that the current conflict has been wrongly caricatured as primarily an ethnic dispute between the two main tribal groups, the Dinka and the Nuer. Although tribal identity has been a historic basis for conflict and continues to be a factor in recent violence, the current fighting is not simply based on ethnicity – for example, the General Chief of Staff, who remains loyal to the Dinka President of South Sudan, is a Nuer.

We are concerned that Government of South Sudan parliamentarians have been arrested and although some have been released, others are still in jail.

We therefore strongly urge the immediate release of all politicians not involved in any criminal actions who are currently detained. All parties to the conflict must allow immediate, unhindered access of humanitarian aid to all in need. The leader of the rebellion, Riek Machar, must agree to demobilise all child soldiers who have been fighting alongside his forces, including those in the so-called White Army, and all parties must address immediately reports of the use of child soldiers. The international community must do all in its power to facilitate dialogue and constructive ways forward.

The cessation of hostilities without a comprehensive political solution, and without resolving the root-causes of the fratricidal violence and carnage, only sets the stage for an inevitable resumption of fighting with the belligerent forces rested, better organised and better equipped.

We strongly support the current peace talks led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to secure an immediate cessation of hostilities. But we also underline that the UK and its partners played a critical role in supporting IGAD to mediate the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the devastating war between Sudan and then-SPLM rebels; without this massive international diplomatic support, political progress would not have been possible. We therefore urge the Prime Minister David Cameron to add his strong support to the ongoing IGAD negotiations.

It would be an unmitigated tragedy for the beleaguered people of South Sudan if the current violence is allowed to continue.

Yours sincerely, Baroness Cox, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Lord Avebury, Sir Peter Bottomley
MP, Lord Chidgey, Nic Dakin MP, Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Baroness Kinnock, Lord Lea of Crondall, John Mann MP, Stephen Mosley MP, The Earl of Sandwich.

Letter reprinted with permission of The  Times. 


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