JUBA, July 17, (Xinhua/GNA) - Experts have urged South Sudan's warring parties to speed up implementation of a peace deal to ease worrying levels of hunger in the country amid displacements caused by more than five years of conflict.
Speaking on Tuesday during a public discussions on prevention of starvation in Juba, Tong Deng Anei, a researcher with World Peace Foundation, said the humanitarian situation remains worrying as thousands of civilians in Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Yei area in Equatoria region remain at risk of starvation due to denial of access to food and disruption of markets caused by conflict.
"The situation that we have been observing in South Sudan is actually very worrisome. People are starving. In South Sudan nobody is supposed to be starving because we have fertile land but because of the (conflict) insecurity we are not able to produce enough. But it does not mean we don't have land and resources," said Anei.
He noted that famine was declared in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap regions in June 2016 by South Sudan government and UN agencies and yet these areas were largely spared from the conflict that broke out in December 2013.
Anei blamed the continued closure of the Sudan border for causing food shortages in these areas.
South Sudan has experienced three cycles of famine since 1988 in Northern Bahr el Ghazal during the decades of civil war which pitied the then-southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army against authorities in Khartoum that eventually led to independence of South Sudan in 2011.
The recent famine was declared in June 2017 in Unity state especially in Leer and Mayendit areas.
A joint report by UN agencies in June finds that some 21,000 people will likely face a catastrophic lack of food access while about 1.82 million will face emergency and another 5.12 million people will face crisis levels of food insecurity.
Anei said that the warring parties must implement the revitalized peace deal signed between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in September 2018 in Ethiopia to help ease the increasing number of hungry people in these parts of the country.
He said South Sudan must strengthen the rule of law, and implement key provisions within chapter 4 and 5 of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan which calls for transitional justice, setting of the African Union-backed hybrid court to try individuals accused of war crimes that displaced thousands, risking them to starvation.
However, Zacharia Diing Akol, political researcher with the Juba-based Sudd Institute, said South Sudan cannot afford currently to pursue justice as the peace implementation is ongoing, warning that it could unravel the nascent normalcy and return the warring parties to conflict. "Investigation of conflict is not always easy because you are confronted with two things that are inter-related - the need to have peace so that you can have stability and the need for accountability. Sometimes there is tension between the two things," he said.
He said the very people (politicians) being accused of committing war crimes are the very people implementing the peace and any attempt to target them may derail the process.
"If you want them to implement the agreement and you want to hold them accountable there are consequences. Full blown accountability comes after the situation is stabilized," said Akol.
Anne Itto, a South Sudanese representative in East African Legislative Assembly, said displaced civilians facing hunger are traumatized and that the future of the country is at risk with a sizable number of children in the worst affected areas suffering malnutrition conditions.
"Starvation and famine has far-reaching impact in communities and households. Some people die but others survive very weak and they become prone to diseases, simple malaria will kill them. And then among children extreme hunger really stunts children," said Itto.