South Sudan ‘weighing heavily’ on the minds of African leaders

    The African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (Middle with a scarf), with other delegates after the Permanent Representatives Committee session of the AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda July 12, 2016. CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

    Leaders will be under pressure to find a quick solution to the escalating tensions in South Sudan during the ongoing African Union Summit in Kigali.

    The AU Summit opened on Sunday with the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), which continued on Monday.

    Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Monday that South Sudan was “weighing heavily” on the minds of African leaders following the flaring up of fighting between forces to President Salva Kiir and former rebels backing Vice-President Riek Machar.

    The tensions

    Ms Mushikiwabo told CNBC Africa that President Paul Kagame over the weekend talked to his counterparts in the East African region to discuss how the tensions in the bloc’s youngest member could be quelled.

    Regional leaders discussed how the power struggle could be resolved and the two factions reined in to end the hostilities which have reportedly claimed over 270 people.

    “It is not a small matter, it is about trying to put aside the entrenched political differences but especially to also try and put their eyes on the people of South Sudan. They have been waiting for a free and prosperous country for decades.

    “A lot of blood has been spilt. The leaders in this region are extremely concerned. It is actually timely that all of them will be coming here to Kigali later in the week. I have no doubt that they will have serious discussions about South Sudan,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.

    Power grab

    It is not clear if President Kiir and Dr Machar will travel to Kigali as earlier expected, but sources told the Africa Review that the duo might stay home to avert a possible power grab.

    However, South Sudan officials in Kigali say the situation was exaggerated by the media and it was currently under control.

    The South Sudan Ambassador to the AU, Mr James Pitia Morgan, said the fighting was due to a misunderstanding, especially on the side of pro-Machar forces, who thought that he was going to be arrested.

    The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Mr Smail Chergui, said a meeting of Igad Foreign ministers and the Peace and Security Council was scheduled to take place on Monday evening.

    Act with restraint

    “We are calling upon everybody, especially the leaders of South Sudan, to act with restraint so that we go back to the starting point and allow the transition government to deal with this issue quietly, bearing in mind the lives of the people,” Mr Chergui said.

    Heavy fighting erupted over the weekend, between the two factions, threatening the peace deal which saw Dr Machar return to Juba in April to form a unity government and end the bloodshed.

    Thousands fled heavy fighting in the capital Juba on Sunday as government soldiers and former rebels traded fire.

    The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting behind closed doors Sunday evening to discuss the situation.