Delegates representing the warring factions in South Sudan’s conflict arrived Thursday for peace talks in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
NPR’s Gregory Warner, who has been reporting on the fighting in the world’s newest country, tells our Newscast unit:
“Soldiers loyal to South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and those who defected to his former Vice President Riek Machar have been fighting for more than two weeks. There have been ethnic attacks against civilians and a comeback of dreaded tribal armies not seen since before independence was gained in 2011.
“But rivals Kiir and Machar will have more issues to hammer out than a cease-fire. Also at stake is the fate of 11 political prisoners that the president accuses of marshaling a coup. And there’s the hardest question — of elections in 2015, and how to pull back from the brink of civil war to work out a fair and peaceful contest for the presidency.”
Among those in Addis Ababa for the talks is Donald Booth, the U.S. special envoy, who told NPR: “We have made clear that those who have been responsible for those violations of human rights will need to be held accountable. But the priority right now is to get both sides to agree to stop the fighting. And build the confidence so that that cessation of hostilities will hold.”
But the fighting continued ahead of the talks. As Gregory reported on Thursday’s Morning Edition, Kiir declared a state of emergency Wednesday in two states, Unity and Jonglei. Both sides resumed their battle Thursday for Bor, Jonglei’s capital.
Oil-rich South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011. Earlier this week, Gregory told NPR’s Michele Martin that the current conflict developed over the past two weeks. He said the violence was a shock to many people, but given the developments since independence “it seems sadly inevitable.”