In letters obtained by Reuters, Democratic Senators Robert
Menendez, chairman of the committee, and Chris Coons, chairman of
the Africa subcommittee, wrote to South Sudanese President Salva
Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar expressing deep concern
about the turmoil.
Fighting since mid-December, often along ethnic lines, has pitted
Kiir's SPLA government forces against rebels loyal to Machar,
raising fears the oil-exporting country could become Africa's next
At least 1,000 people have been killed, with some estimates as high
as 10,000, and more than 200,000 have been displaced. Oil exports — key to South Sudan's economy — have plummeted, adding to regional
"As long-time friends of South Sudan, we must first express our deep
concern to you, its president, with the hope that you do everything
in your power to bring the violence to an immediate end," Menendez
and Coons wrote to Kiir.
The senators urged all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire,
without preconditions. They also called on Kiir to release political
detainees to allow them participate in peace negotiations.
They called for a more inclusive and transparent political dialogue,
as well as an end to any harassment of relief workers, and expressed
alarm about human rights violations.
"We are closely monitoring potential human rights violations and
atrocities against innocent civilians, committed by any and all
parties. We strongly urge you to demand restraint," they wrote to
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Washington has spent billions of dollars — congressional aides
estimated $600 million per year — to help build the fledgling
nation, including allowing weapons sales to its government and
providing security training for its armed forces.
Unlike many African countries, South Sudan enjoys the strong
interest of a broad range of U.S. lawmakers, who backed the push by
largely Christian and African southern Sudan to split from Muslim-
and Arab-dominated northern Sudan and form the world's youngest
state three years ago.
But some members of Congress have been expressing deep frustration
with the wave of violence and several have questioned whether it is
appropriate for the United States to cut back on aid or slap
sanctions on those responsible.
Menendez called a Senate Foreign relations hearing last week to
question U.S. officials and activists about the crisis. The House of
Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee held a similar hearing
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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