A “purely personal power struggle” between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar could lead to genocide top U.N. Officials said on Friday.
South Sudan became the world’s newest state when it declared independence from Sudan in 2011. Thousands of people have been killed, and more than 1 million have fled their homes – exacerbating ethnic tensions between Kiir’s Dinka people and Machar’s Nuer since December 2013 when fighting began.
On Monday, United States Secretary of State John Kerry threatened sanctions against Machar if he refuses to commit to peace.
“He has a fundamental decision to make. If he decides not to (go) and procrastinates, then we have a number of different options that are available to us,” said Kerry to reporters in Angola’s capital Luanda, his last stop on a nearly week-long trip to Africa.
“Let me make it clear, if there is a total refusal by one party or the other to engage … not only might sanctions be engaged, but there are other serious implications and possible consequences,” he added.
In an interview on Saturday with the Sudan Tribune, Machar was quoted as saying he thought a face-to-face meeting with Kiir could be “counterproductive.” But Kerry noted that Machar didn’t rule out a meeting.
“He expressed some doubts, but he didn’t say he wouldn’t go,” Kerry said, noting that Machar’s wife was in Ethiopia, where the face-to-face talks were meant to take place.