March 11, 2014
Marthe van der Wolf
FILE – South Sudan refugees at Kiryandongo settlement camp in Uganda.
Ethiopia’s prime minister believes a fast deployment of regional troops to South Sudan is important, so that South Sudan does not turn into another failed state.
South Sudan and regional stability were the main points discussed Tuesday as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta began his first state visit to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Deslagen says deployment of a regional stability and protection force to South Sudan should not be delayed.
“It will be very bad to have a failed state again in our region,” said Hailemariam. “So we urge the international community to respond as quickly as possible to our requests so that we rescue this country.”
Several East African countries, such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Djibouti and Burundi, have indicated they are ready to send troops to South Sudan.
Nearly three months of fighting has left thousands dead and close to a million displaced from their homes.
The East African bloc IGAD is mediating peace negotiations between the government and rebel forces in Addis Ababa. Despite the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement in January, fighting continues and the talks are making little progress.
Heads of state from East Africa will meet Thursday in Addis to discuss the details of the proposed stabilization and protection force.
Kenya and Ethiopia are also discussing the issue of 11 “political detainees” arrested by South Sudan’s government in mid-December. Rebels want the 11 men released.
Seven were turned over to the Kenyan president’s custody last month but four remain imprisoned, and will have to appear in a South Sudanese court.
Kenyan President Kenyatta says the issue of the four detainees is key to resolving the crisis.
“As part of our own IGAD framework, we had indicated that we would want to see ourselves work towards the release of the four to join the seven and everybody else in finding a political solution to the crisis, and that is a process we are continuing with Juba,” said Uhuru.
President Kenyatta is scheduled to remain in Ethiopia through the IGAD summit on Thursday.