For immediate release
27 January 2017
South Sudan's "perpetual cycles of violence" must be tackled once and for all through support for a National Dialogue at next week's African Union Heads of State and Government Summit, a pan-African coalition has demanded.
The coalition, made up of 60 civil society organisations from across the continent, called on leaders in attendance in Addis Ababa to commit their support to an "open and inclusive national dialogue" for the world's youngest country, which is teetering on the brink of genocide. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s proposal for such a dialogue came suddenly last December, but many South Sudanese have expressed concerns about his impartiality and subsequent ability to lead a national dialogue.
In an open letter, the coalition writes that the people of South Sudan "face a political crisis which continues to fuel horrific violence and atrocities committed by armed actors affiliated with both government and opposition forces."
Dismas Nkunda, the Director of Atrocities Watch Africa, who signed the letter, said: "Our brothers and sisters in South Sudan are suffering enormously through a needless war, the fires of which their leaders are actively stoking. If the leaders and citizens of the African Union do not stand up for the people of South Sudan, then no one will?"
The situation in South Sudan continues to deteriorate, as illustrated in new research by the UN human rights office, which shows that armed government and opposition forces raped hundreds of women and girls during the outbreak of violence last July, and that forces on both sides continue to show a "complete disregard of civilians." At the end of last year, warning of a potential genocide in South Sudan grew steam, although a resolution for an arms embargo against the country failed at the UN Security Council.
Dinah Misindarwezo, the Director of the African Women’s Development and Communications Network, said: “The war in South Sudan does not stop at its borders: it affects the economies and politics of its neighbours and it affects the status of women across the entire continent, where women and girls disproportionately bear the brunt of suffering from armed conflicts. And perhaps most worryingly of all, it challenges the ability of the AU to be the leader for peace that this continent so desperately needs.”
Edmund Yakani, Director of the Juba-based Community Empowerment for Peace Organization, said: "In South Sudan, we hope this display of solidarity from across the continent will encourage our leaders to talk to us - and help us talk to each other - about what we want for our country. But after years of fighting and the mistrust it has sown, we need the African Union to steward this process so our people can fully trust in it. We need to know that the urgent situation on the ground will be matched by urgent action."
For interviews, please contact:
Dismas Nkunda, Director of Africa Atrocities Watch (Uganda), firstname.lastname@example.org, +256.414.340.275 / +256.753.310.404· Edmund Yakani, Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (South Sudan), email@example.com, +211.955.214.513
Open Letter to African Union Heads of State and Government on Supporting an Open and Genuine National Dialogue in South Sudan
We, the undersigned organizations from the continent in solidarity with the people of South Sudan, urge you to seize a potentially powerful opportunity for a sustained peace in South Sudan by committing your leadership to the development of an open and inclusive national dialogue for our continent's newest nation at the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union. Your support would give the people of South Sudan confidence to move forward, knowing that the AU stands in their interest.
Your Excellencies, our South Sudanese brothers and sisters continue to suffer from seemingly perpetual cycles of violence with little hope for respite from their leadership. They face a political crisis which continues to fuel horrific violence and atrocities committed by armed actors affiliated with both government and opposition forces. They have been subjected to the devastating effects of a deep economic crisis that makes life unbearable. Vast numbers of people have been displaced from their homes and are on the brink of famine.
It is in this context that President Salva Kiir launched a call for a national dialogue on 14 December 2016 to "save the country from disintegration and usher in a new era of peace, stability and prosperity." This is a worthy intention. South Sudan is in desperate need of a solution to its prolonged crisis. But worthy intentions bear no value if they are not followed by genuine action and commitment. This is where we believe the AU must hold South Sudan's leaders to account.
National dialogues can be a powerful tool to prevent or end further conflict and ensure national healing and reconciliation if conducted in a credible, inclusive and participatory manner. In the past, they have been used to mediate a peaceful dialogue to enable the bridging of political and religious divisions. However, national dialogues can also be deliberately misused by leaders to consolidate their grip on power and delay democratic processes.
Your Excellencies, it is in this regard that we urge the Assembly of the African Union at the 28th Ordinary Session to support South Sudan's national dialogue by:
· Stressing the need for the National Dialogue process to be conducted in a credible, independent and impartial manner and for the facilitators of the dialogue to be supported to convene all major stakeholders to agree on how they will work together to restore peace and stability to South Sudan;
· Ensuring that the national dialogue is citizen-driven and open to full public participation, and that it has a clear mandate, structure, rules and procedures;
· Ensuring that it addresses the root causes of South Sudan's conflict;
· Affirming the need for a credible implementation plan, so the people of South Sudan can be assured that the process is genuine and will lead to concrete changes to their lives and the future of their country.
Your Excellencies, we come together to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan to ensure that their voices are heard in shaping their country’s destiny. Their hopes and aspirations are one and the same as those held by the rest of our continent's people. Together, we encourage you to manifest this solidarity by helping South Sudan forge a durable path to peace.
Please accept, Your Excellencies, the assurances of our highest consideration.
Abibiman Foundation, Action Green For Trade and Sustainable Development, Africa Atrocities Watch, Africa Development Interchange Network, Africa Youth Initiative Network, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, Africans Rising For Peace Justice and Dignity, AIDS Accountability International, Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Center for Conflict Resolution, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Conseil National des ONG de Développement de la RDC, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Darfur Bar Association, Daughters of Mumbi Global Resource Center, Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Denis Hurley Peace Institute, Development for Peace Education, East African Civil Society Organisations' Forum, Tanzania, East African Civil Society Organisations’ Forum, Face Past for Future Foundation, Fahamu, Fadhili Teens, Fedus Youth Ministries, Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile, Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Uganda, Hurriyat Sudan, IndustriALL Global Union Sub Sahara Africa Region, International Commission of Jurists-Kenya, International Council on Social Welfare, International Refugee Rights Initiative, Isha Human Rights Organization, Kakute Projects, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Uganda, Nhimbe Trust, Nouveaux Droits de l’Homme Cameroun, Pan African Lawyers Union, Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network, Partnership for Justice, Peace Pen Communications, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, Réseau des Citoyens Probes, Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale, Réseau des Plate-formes Nationales d’ONG d’Afrique Centrale, SADC Council on NGOs, South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network, Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council, Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute, Sudan Social Development Organization, The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, The African Women’s Development and Communications Network, The Centre for Citizens' Participation on the African Union, Centre for Governance and Public Participation, The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Trauma Centre-Cameroon, West Africa Civil Society Institute, West African Human Right Defenders Network, Women and Resources in East and Southern Africa, Young Women Development, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association