Tens of thousands have died and nearly four million South Sudanese have been driven from their homes as warring parties continue to tear apart the fledgeling country which gained independence in 2011.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Sisi pose for a photograph at the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. January 28, 2018.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Sisi pose for a photograph at the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. January 28, 2018. (Reuters)

African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said on Sunday that "the time has come" to slap sanctions on those blocking peace in South Sudan, one of the most intractable wars facing African leaders as they meet in Ethiopia.

At the opening of the 30th annual African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Faki deplored the "unbelievable cruelty" and "senseless violence" of warring parties in South Sudan, which has been torn apart by conflict since December 2013, just two years after gaining independence.

The 30th African Union summit has opened in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. The two-day summit will see the fifty-five member states collaborate on an array of initiatives. 

It's also expected to have some wider international implications as TRT World's Joseph Hayat explains.

Conflict in South Sudan

Tens of thousands have died and nearly four million South Sudanese have been driven from their homes, while millions are going hungry in a humanitarian crisis expected to worsen as the lean season sets in.

Efforts to revitalise a 2015 peace agreement resulted in a ceasefire in December which lasted just hours before warring parties accused each other of breaking the truce.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged his support for "any African initiative for a more robust response" to the breaking of the truce.

"Reports that come from South Sudan do not reflect the current truth on the ground," South Sudan's cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomoro, who is charged with overseeing the peace process, said.

Trump says he respects 'shithole' countries

"I strongly believe Africa is one of the greatest forces for good in our world," Guterres also added.

President Donald Trump said the United States "deeply respects" Africans and will dispatch its top diplomat to the continent, in a letter to African leaders seen by AFP on Sunday.

The letter sent last week comes after Trump provoked a firestorm of indignation among African nations earlier in January when he reportedly called them "shithole countries" during a meeting with lawmakers in Washington.

While Trump has denied the remarks, they are expected to be formally condemned by the 55 member states during the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies