African NGOs Urge AU to Champion National Dialogue in South Sudan

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In short
South Sudans perpetual cycles of violence must be tackled once and for all through support for a National Dialogue at next weeks African Union Heads of State and Government Summit, a pan-African coalition has demanded.

A coalition of 60 civil society organizations has petitioned the Heads of State under the African Union  to commit their support to an open and inclusive national dialogue in South Sudan.

In an open letter released ahead of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) that opens in the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa today, the group stated that South Sudan is in desperate need of a solution to its prolonged crisis, which is teetering on the brink of genocide.

The organisation, from different countries across the continent are optimistic that the African Union can ably restore hope for millions of South Sudan nationals, whose hopes were shattered  by the civil war.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir last December stated that the country needed national dialogue to "save it from disintegration and usher in a new era of peace, stability and prosperity." But many South Sudanese have expressed concerns about his impartiality and subsequent ability to lead a national dialogue.

"This is a worthy intention. But worthy intentions bear no value if they are not followed by genuine action and commitment. This is where we believe the AU must hold South Sudan's leaders to account," Dismas Nkunda, the Director of Atrocities Watch Africa, who signed the letter said:

Nkunda added that national dialogues can be a powerful tool to prevent or end further conflict and ensure national healing and reconciliation if conducted in a credible, inclusive and participatory manner.

"Our brothers and sisters in South Sudan are suffering enormously through a needless war, the fires of which their leaders are actively stoking. If the leaders and citizens of the African Union do not stand up for the people of South Sudan, then no one will".

The petition comes at the backdrop of a deteriorating situation in South Sudan. Recent research by the UN human rights office shows that armed government and opposition forces raped hundreds of women and girls during the outbreak of violence last July, and that both sides continue to show a "complete disregard of civilians."

Dinah Misindarwezo, the director of the African Women's Development and Communications Network pointed out that the war in South Sudan does not stop at its borders, saying it affects the economies and politics of its neighbors and it affects the status of women across the entire continent.

The organizations that have pended signatures to the petition include Africa Atrocities Watch, Africa Development Interchange Network, Africa Youth Initiative Network, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, Africans Rising For Peace Justice and Dignity, Center for Conflict Resolution, Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Uganda and National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Uganda among others.