United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged warring sides in South Sudan to “put peace above politics” and form a unity government without further delay, and said the oil-producing country needs $1.3 billion of aid this year.
Ban spoke on Thursday in the capital, Juba, after meeting President Salva Kiir and speaking with rebel leader Riek Machar by phone. His trip comes about a week after armed clashes at a UN camp left at least 18 people dead and sent thousands fleeing for their lives, and as fighting drove 1,100 civilians to a UN base in eastern Jonglei state.
Conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2013 in a power struggle between allies of Kiir and Machar, his former deputy. Tens of thousands of people have died and more than 2 million have been driven from their homes, while some of the worst fighting has centered in oil-rich regions, crimping production.
A security arrangement reached this week allows more than 1,300 opposition forces into Juba, opening the way for Machar to return and take part in a transitional government which was agreed to in a peace deal signed in August. The accord has faced repeated delays and outbreaks of violence have continued despite a pledge to end the fighting.
The conflict is driving abuses ranging from rape to forced recruitment of child soldiers and “epic” corruption, said Ban. He raised concern that the unrest is hindering the distribution of humanitarian assistance and that 45 aid workers have been killed and many more are missing. Global aid pledges to South Sudan are a “paltry” 3 percent of the needs set out in a response plan, said Ban.
“Time lost means lives lost,” Ban told reporters, according to an e-mailed transcript of his remarks. “I urge the international community to show its commitment to the people of South Sudan.”
Ban visited Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this week.