Norway to host S. Sudan donor conference on May 20

By Okech Francis, Thursday, May 08, 2014

The meeting will seek to help address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan

The meeting will seek to help address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan

JUBA – Norway is set to host an international conference on May 20 for donor countries and aid organizations from around the world to help address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.

"I briefed the minister about the planning of the international donors' conference on South Sudan that will take place on May 20 in Oslo," Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende told the press in Juba on Thursday after a meeting with his South Sudanese counterpart, Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

Brende arrived in Juba earlier Thursday for a two-day visit.

"We know that humanitarian needs are unfortunately great in South Sudan and there is a need [for] getting more humanitarian assistance, such as food, medicine and clean water for the people in need," said Brende.

The two ministers also discussed humanitarian access in South Sudan, with Brende calling for the dismantling of roadblocks and custom restrictions on humanitarian aid transit.

"This is an important signal to send to the donor conference," he said.

Benjamin, for his part, welcomed the Norwegian government's decision to host the donor conference.

"Norway and South Sudan have always been together since the days of the struggle; we are appreciative of the donor conference being hosted by Norway," Benjamin told reporters.

"It is a great gesture from the people of Norway to assist the people of South Sudan," the minister added.

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice president, Riek Machar, of leading a failed coup attempt against his regime.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the U.N. estimating that some one million South Sudanese have been displaced by the violence.

During a Tuesday visit to Juba, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned of possible famine if the fighting continued.

The United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) has also warned that some 50,000 South Sudanese children are at risk dying of malnutrition this year if the situation isn't addressed.

-End hostilities-

Brende urged the country's warring parties to pursue peace and implement a January cessation of hostilities agreement to relieve the people of the problems associated with political unrest.

"We also discussed the upcoming meeting between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar in Addis Ababa tomorrow, where we do seriously and sincerely hope they will be firm on the agreement of cessation of hostilities for the immediate end of fighting so that people in the camps can go back and rebuild their livelihoods," the Norwegian FM added.

Benjamin, meanwhile, reiterated his government's commitment to pursuing all means necessary to bring peace to the people of South Sudan.

"I assured the minister [Brende] about the commitment of our government and President Kiir's meeting [with] Dr. Riek Machar in Addis Ababa," he said. "There is no question about it because we have always said we are for peace."

"I also assured him that, on the areas of human rights violations, our government has already constituted an investigation committee to investigate the cases and bring those individuals behind the abuses to book," Benjamin added.

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