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UN Chief Warns African Bloc Against Conflicts of Interest in South Sudan

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks in New York, Dec. 6, 2017. Guterres says South Sudan's leadership must show more interest "in the well-being of its own people."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned countries of the regional bloc of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) against taking sides in the internal affairs of South Sudan.

In a speech Saturday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at a consultative meeting on South Sudan, with representatives from the United Nations, IGAD and the African Union, Guterres said there were contradictions and conflicts of interest among IGAD countries.

"It is in my opinion absolutely essential ... to make sure that any contradictions that might exist among the neighbors of South Sudan are not translated into an influence in the internal situation of South Sudan,'' the secretary-general said.

He added that the implementation of the cease-fire agreement reached between South Sudanese parties in December 2017 would require strong action from U.N. member states.

"I don't think those tougher measures can be originated outside in the context of the United Nations or the Security Council. I think they need to be originated in the region, and I think that the leadership of IGAD is absolutely essential, together with the African Union,'' said Guterres.

Call for leadership

He called on the South Sudanese leaders to show leadership by ending the violence in their country.

"First of all, it is clear to me, and I'm sorry to say so, but I've never seen a political elite with so little interest in the well-being of its own people," said Guterres.

The U.N.'s top diplomat said the lack of commitment from South Sudanese leaders was "creating the need for a continued pressure of all of us in order to make sure that they [South Sudanese leaders] assume their responsibilities as leaders of their own people, instead of prolonging the conflict to the detriment of the enormously suffering South Sudanese people."

Guterres promised to support any decisions reached by the group to hold accountable those who violate cease-fires or international humanitarian law.

"You can fully count on my commitment to support your initiative,'' he said. "We will do our best with the difficulties we have to make UNMISS [U.N. Mission in South Sudan] as effective as possible in support of the stability of the country. We are fully engaged with the regional protective force.

"I would like to congratulate the IGAD Council of Ministers and the Special Envoy for, first of all, the High Level Revitalization Forum [the forum created last year to revive the 2015 peace accord] and, second, the immediate results that were obtained with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, protection of civilians and humanitarian access,'' Guterres said.

He also thanked the international community for succeeding in averting hunger from spreading across South Sudan.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.