Only three years after it gained independence from Sudan in July, 2011, South Sudan is on the brink of a full-blown civil war, EU officials warned Wednesday.
"Famine and the prospects of a major humanitarian disaster are looming," Alexander Rondos, EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa who has just returned from the region, told a news conference here this afternoon.
He stated that beyond the suffering of the South Sudanese people, this crisis risks affecting a much wider region that is already prone to instability, Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Horn of Africa region. Rondos noted that last Friday South Sudan President President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed an agreement in Addis Ababa to respect the previously-agreed ceasefire and begin political negotiations for a national unity government.
He said the two South Sudanese leaders committed themselves to two basic objectives, one to cease hostilities immediately and secondly to move on with the political future of the country. They agreed that a national unity government should be formed in South Sudan at some stage but no deadline has been set for that. The EU official noted that there are other parties also which have to be involved in the negotiations.
The EU welcomes the rapid deployment of a regional force, under a UN mandate, to monitor the ceasefire agreement, he said. Rondos said that the EU is considering sanction against individuals in South Sudan who are obstructing the political process. However, he did not clarify when and against whom the sanctions will be imposed.
Analysts point out that the EU has invested heavily in South Sudan as the country has the third-largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011 and 2013, the EU adopted a number of projects worth 270 million euro in the sectors of agriculture, education, health.
Speaking at the same press conference, Jean-Louis De Brower, a senior European Commission official, said South Sudan has 1 million internally displaced persons and 2.2 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
The EU has so far provided more than 176 million euro in humanitarian assistance to South Sudan in 2014, he noted.
Marcus Cornaoro, Deputy Director-General of the Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation of the European Commission (EuropeAid), said South Sudan is facing a "rapidly deteriorating situation," adding that the EU is holding funding for the government due to the crisis