With an attack on UN Peacekeepers and the civilians they are protecting in Bor, the crisis in South Sudan has taken a dangerous turn for the worse. An as yet undetermined number of men, women, and children were killed and injured in the attack.
Though the exact circumstances remain unclear, this latest outbreak should be seen as a sign of the dangers of the ongoing stalemate in peace talks and pattern of violations of the cessation of hostilities signed in January.
The attack comes just a day after rebel forces claimed to have captured the capital of a key oil-producing state and after the UN warned the country is on the brink of famine that threatens up to a million people. The violence has been met by widespread strong statements of condemnation from the UN Mission in South Sudan, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, calling it a “serious escalation”, and reportedly from rebel leader Riek Machar.
With this recent intensification of violence must come an intensification of international attention and pressure. President Obama must show his threat of targeted sanctions against those standing in the way of peace is “not a hollow warning”, as his Special Envoy has stated.
The United States should join with the UK, EU, and Norway, to support current peace talks sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the rapid deployment of a regional force to protect verification teams monitoring the January cessation of hostilities agreement. Any force must prioritize civilian protection and any talks must include civil society representation if it is to be durable and credible.
And our political leaders need to know we care about the people of South Sudan and that we demand attention and action now, before the world’s newest nation is struck by famine and spreading violence.
Click here to demand action from President Obama and Secretary Kerry. Voices for peace in South Sudan are desperately needed.