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American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan and the Episcopal Church in the United States have co-signed an open letter to US President Barack Obama urging him to help put an end to the conflict in South Sudan.
In the letter, 19 religious organisations and NGOs urge Mr Obama to use his upcoming visit to Africa to "press for a solution to the ongoing crisis in South Sudan and stress the need for greater regional cooperation to pressure the warring parties to make the necessary concessions for a sustainable peace in South Sudan."
They say that "a central component of this agenda should be combating the culture of impunity that surrounds the conflict to help forge an enabling environment for peace negotiations."
They say: "Given the lack of consequences for attacks against civilians thus far, atrocities are becoming more heinous while the humanitarian situation deteriorates due to lack of access and insecurity. The latest report by the human rights monitors at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan documented extreme acts of torture and gender-based violence specifically targeting women and children. Recent attacks have been characterized by a ‘new brutality and intensity,’ according to the UN’s report.
“The Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET) has found conditions of famine in a growing number of South Sudanese households and widespread food insecurity threatening millions.
“Mr. President, your time in the region will provide an invaluable opportunity to discuss with regional heads of state the need to build the necessary leverage to revitalize peace negotiations. Without accountability for economic and atrocity crimes, the plundering of the nation’s wealth and abuse of its people will continue. Any peace agreement that does not address this central aspect of the conflict is unlikely to result in a sustainable peace, particularly if a transitional government emerging from such an agreement is similar in composition to the pre-crisis arrangement.”
In their letter, they signatories urge the US President to support regional enforcement of existing sanctions and call for “additional high-level [sanctions] against individuals who continue to undermine the peace process and orchestrate attacks against civilians.”
They also ask him to press Ethiopia and Kenya to “share intelligence and contribute actively to the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for Eastern Africa to jumpstart efforts to trace, seize, freeze, and return the proceeds of corruption to the people of South Sudan” and for regional leaders to demand an end to the obstructions placed on the delivery of humanitarian aid, which they describe as “a violation of the laws of war and the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2206.”
They say: “In taking these strong steps while in the region to build leverage, promote agreement, and press for humanitarian access you can help revitalize the prospects for an inclusive peace process that results in a durable peace in South Sudan.
“The message you will send is a strong reminder that the people of the United States stand with the people of South Sudan and against South Sudan’s military and political elites who are committing acts of violence against the people they are empowered to protect.”
In addition to the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan and the Episcopal Church in the United States, the letter has also been signed by the American Jewish World Service, Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, Citizens for Global Solutions, Darfur Interfaith Network, Enough Project, Humanity United, i-ACT, Jewish World Watch, National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Sojourners, STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, United to End Genocide, Voices for Sudan and World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law.