RED CROSS SAYS READY TO FACILITATE RELEASE OF DETAINEES IN SOUTH SUDAN

JUBA, The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was prepared to facilitate the release of detainees for all parties of the conflict in South Sudan, as mandated by the recently signed peace deal.

South Sudan’s revitalized peace pact permits the ICRC to facilitate release of persons detained in relation to the conflict.

“We have offered our services to all sides and confirmed our readiness to act as a neutral facilitator for the release of detainees,” said Francois Stamm, the head of delegation for the ICRC, in South Sudan.

“The ICRC has previously acted as a neutral intermediary in release operations in South Sudan and we will do so again at the request of the parties to the conflict and with the consent of detainees,” he added.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Sept. 27 ordered the release of all prisoners of war and political detainees as part of a recently signed peace deal.

The country’s national security service last Thursday announced that it had freed 20 detainees following president Kiir’s amnesty to persons detained during the five-year-old conflict.

Kiir, his former deputy and arch rival Riek Machar and several opposition groups early September signed a new power-sharing deal aimed at ending the conflict that has devastated the country.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates that about four million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally. A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed in July 2016, following renewed violence in the capital, Juba.

Meanwhile in ADDIS ABABA, the Ethiopian capital, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) have reiterated their continued efforts to support South Sudan in implementing a peace agreement signed last month.

The AU and the UN conducted a joint visit to South Sudan on Oct. 7-9, meeting government officials and representatives of women and civil society organizations as well as the media on issues related to the latest South Sudan peace deal.

Briefing the press on the joint visit and its outcome at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday, officials of the two organizations said they are encouraged with the determination of South Sudanese people for the revitalized peace deal.

During the joint visit to South Sudan, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui and UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix were accompanied by the executive director for UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and the co-chair of the AU Network of Women Mediators, Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe.

Chergui, the AU commissioner, said they are very much encouraged by the determination and the resilience of the people of South Sudan, and mainly women.

“And the strong message that came throughout these interactions is now that everybody believes in this revitalized peace agreement,” the commissioner said.

“Everybody has now signed and ratified the peace agreement without reservation. The only party that is going to finalize it this week is the former detainees,” Chergui said. “We are hopeful they will also do without any reservation.”

“So, everybody looks to the implementation,” he said.

Underlining the need for the implementation and the peace process to be inclusive, especially for women, the AU commissioner expressed the commitment by the AU and the UN to continue working with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the wider international community to make it happen.

For his part, Lacroix, the UN under-secretary-general, expressed readiness to work together and help the people of South Sudan.

South Sudan’s conflict is now entering its fifth year since it erupted in late 2013.

A 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting.

The latest peace agreement was signed in Addis Ababa in September.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK