Visiting Africa, John Kerry has stressed his commitment to tackling renewed violence in South Sudan.
Hosted by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday, the US Secretary of State said that he and regional powers are committed to the swift deployment of extra UN troops to South Sudan.
Fierce fighting in its capital Juba last month raised fears that the five-year-old nation could slide back into civil war. It prompted the United Nations to authorise the deployment of 4,000 additional UN troops to bolster a UN mission there.
“We need to move forward with the deployment of a regional protection force,” Kerry told a news conference in Nairobi after talks with foreign ministers from Kenya and other African states that also focussed on Somalia’s reconstruction.
Kerry said that those running South Sudan must recommit to a peace deal.
“The leaders of South Sudan have to live up to their responsibilities. They have to put the interest of their citizens first and they have to refrain from violent and provocative acts. And the time has come to replace confrontation and impunity with reconciliation and accountability,” he said.
Around two years of conflict that pitted troops loyal to President Salva Kiir against those of his former deputy Riek Machar were supposed to have ended with a peace deal last year. But fighting persisted and flared again last month in Juba.
After the latest violence, Machar, who had returned to the capital in April to resume his post as vice president, withdrew again to the bush and was picked up this month by UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a leg injury.
Kiir has again sacked him and appointed a new vice president.
Sacked South Sudan VP flees country amid violence https://t.co/GRC50G7fWn— The Independent (@Independent) 18 août 2016
South Sudan’s government initially said it would not cooperate with the new UN troops which will be under the command of the 12,000-strong UNMISS mission. But since then it has said it was still considering its position.
“We have not rejected it or accepted it. The sovereignty of the people of South Sudan will be decided by the parliament,” South Sudan’s presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said.
Kerry pledged new humanitarian aid to South Sudan worth $138 million and said the new UN troop contingent was “not an intervention force” but would protect civilians and support those working to ensure peace prevailed.
Conflict in the country has killed thousands of people and driven more than 2 million others from their homes, with many of them fleeing to neighbouring states.
Separately, speaking in Nairobi, Kerry said that talks between the US and Russia on military cooperation in the fight against ISIL in Syria are nearing a conclusion.