South Sudanese delegates begin talks in Addis Ababa to end five-year-old civil war with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workineh Gebeyehu saying the "very last chance" to end the "nightmare" for South Sudanese people is now.
Fresh talks on the crisis in South Sudan began in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Monday as pressure mounts on leaders to take stronger action to end the country's five-year-old civil war.
The talks in Addis Ababa have been convened by the East African bloc IGAD (Inter Governmental Authority on Development) to push the warring sides back to the negotiating table after a 2015 peace deal collapsed.
Ethiopia's foreign minister Workineh Gebeyehu said this was the "very last chance" to end the "nightmare" for South Sudanese people.
"You, collectively, by your personal and political interests are responsible for the nightmare your own people are going through," Gebeyehu told South Sudanese delegates.
"You have had numerous opportunities to change directions. You have repeatedly failed to do so," he said.
"This really is the very last chance for you to accept your responsibilities and take the necessary actions."
Today the U.S. stopped any arms sales to South Sudan. The U.S. is appalled by the continuing violence there, creating one of Africa’s worst humanitarian crises. We will not stand by as innocent South Sudanese civilians are murdered. https://t.co/oqbFOjgH3n— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 2, 2018
The United States banned the export of weapons and defence services to South Sudan, stepping up pressure against President Salva Kiir and signaling that Washington is losing patience with the young nation's leaders after repeated agreements to end the violence.
Neighbouring countries and African groups, such as the eight-member IGAD are under increased pressure to sanction South Sudanese officials who undermine the peace process.
IGAD has said it would impose a range of sanctions if warring sides violate any future deals to end the crisis.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011, but a little over two years later its leaders began a fresh civil war pitting Kiir against his former deputy Riek Machar.
Tens of thousands of people have died and a third of South Sudan's 12 million population have fled their homes in the war that began in 2013.
The war has been marked by brutal attacks against civilians, which has sparked the region's biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
* 5 years of conflict— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) February 1, 2018
* 1 in 3 South Sudanese people displaced
* 6 neighboring countries affected#SouthSudan is set to become Africa’s largest refugee crisis https://t.co/TiPr0Wxrql pic.twitter.com/RgwiQ5YZ44
2018 polls "no longer viable"
Various peace deals have been signed and then broken, most recently in December. Every time, each side accuses the other of responsibility for the breakdown and unrelenting violence.
A 2015 peace deal that suppressed the conflict for nearly a year before collapsing had planned for elections in August this year, but the so-called troika of Britain, Norway and the US which plays an influential role in South Sudan has rejected that timetable.
"Elections in 2018 are no longer viable and cannot be supported by the troika and the rest of the international community," said Chris Trott, Britain's special representative to South Sudan.
Without peace, Trott warned that "it will become extremely difficult for us to help you rebuild your country and support your institutions."