(JUBA) – The South Sudanese government is sharply divided over the level of involvement of western countries in the current conflict, amid claims some are providing support to rebels forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar.
- Rebel fighters aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar gather in a village in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state on 8 February 2014 (Photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
The ambassadors from the United States and European Union countries issued a statement on Wednesday expressing disappointment over the government’s decision to block a delegation of political parties from attending peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia, which are being facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The statement, a copy of which was obtained by Sudan Tribune, is signed by representatives from the US, the United Kingdom, Norway, the European Union, Germany and the Netherlands.
“We are concerned that some members of the political parties delegation have been prevented from travelling to join IGAD talks in Ethiopia to which they were invited by the IGAD mediators,” the statement said in part.
“This does not sit well with an inclusive and representative process that takes into account the views of all constituencies and all stakeholders. Preventing an individual from travelling may also violate his or her right to freedom of movement,” it adds.
The ambassadors said they remained “deeply concerned” about the prevailing political and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, which they described as “an entirely man-made catastrophe”.
“We call on leaders on all sides to recognise the need for compromise, to put their people first and to make peace a reality as a first priority,” it adds.
Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny lashed out western countries following the statement, describing the country’s current conflict as a “Troika project”, saying the west’s failure to act had inflamed the crisis.
South Sudan spiralled into violence in mid-December last year amid political differences within the leadership of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
The presidential aide also accused US special envoy to the Sudans Donald Booth of “supporting rebels” and “sympathising” with political detainees accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
The South Sudanese government has become increasingly frustrated with the west after it refused to accept its version that the conflict was sparked by a failed coup attempt.
It remains unclear whether Ateny’s comments were representative of the government or he was expressing his own personal views.
However, SPLM secretary for political and mobilisation affairs Antipas Nyok said the views expressed by the presidential spokesperson did not reflect those of the party.
“I see these views as personal. They do not represent the party [and] nor do they also represent the government. They neither represent the views of the SPLM nor the official position of the government,” Nyok told reporters on Thursday.