As African and world leaders descended on Rwanda, the clashes have become the focus point and the issue is set to be discussed aggressively at the summit.
Clashes occurred on the fifth anniversary of the country’s independence. On July 7, the rival factions pledging loyalties to President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar engaged in a violent fight in Juba that killed at least 150 people and involved gunfire outside a UN building. Allegations that Machar’s residence in Juba was attacked by Kiir’s men had triggered the fight.
UNMISS, the UN mission in South Sudan, said that the violence occurred so close that it drove away 1,000 internally displaced people under its protection. It said, “Both UNMISS compounds in Juba have sustained impacts from small arms and heavy weapons fire.”
Kiir and Machar met at the Presidential Palace the next day to issue a call for calm, following the severe damage and loss of lives.
By July 10, the death toll from those clashes rose to 271.
The issue is being highlighted at the continental gathering after the UN warned of tensions and the possibility of fresh fighting in Juba, even though a fragile ceasefire is being held since July 11.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Paul Kagame, Rwandan President at the summit and appreciated Rwanda’s contribution to the world body’s peacekeeping, including in the Central African Republic, Darfur, Sudan and South Sudan.
The UN said in an official statement that both the leaders expressed deep concern at the recent escalation of violence in South Sudan, its impact on the civilian population and consequences for the peace process.
They are said to have urged South Sudanese leaders to demonstrate the commitment required to bring the tragedy unfolding in their country to an end and fulfill their people’s aspirations to peace, security and reconciliation.
The statement said, “The Secretary-General and the President agreed on the need and urgency of renewed international engagement to advance the quest for peace in South Sudan. The Secretary-General seized the opportunity to recall the recommendations he made to the Security Council, including an arms embargo, targeted sanctions, and strengthening the capacity of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).”
Further, reports stated that the volatile situation in Burundi was also discussed at the summit.
On the other hand, the presence of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir at the summit made headlines as his presence there was in defiance of an international warrant issued against him.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrants against al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010 for alleged atrocities, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.
Bashir is said to have arrived in Rwanda on Saturday, after Rwandan President Paul Kagame assured that his country will not arrest al-Bashir during his visit to Kigali to participate in the AU summit.
Deciding the leadership for the AU Commission would also be discussed at the summit as current Chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma of South Africa announced her decision to step down.