In a broadcast message to the people of South Sudan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday renewed his call on the country's leaders to settle their differences peacefully and pledged to help end the violence that has wracked the world's youngest nation over the past ten days.
"I want to assure you that the United Nations stands with the people of South Sudan at this difficult time," Ban said in the radio/video message.
Deadly clashes have escalated in South Sudan since Dec.15, following what President Salva Kiir's government claimed was an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, who was dismissed in July.
"We know many of you are suffering from horrific attacks. Families are fleeing their homes. Many of you have lost loved ones and are grieving. Innocent civilians are being targeted because of their ethnicity. This is a grave violation of human rights," said Ban. "South Sudan is under threat -- but South Sudan is not alone."
The UN chief once again called on the country's leaders to settle their differences peacefully and underscored their responsibility to protect civilians.
"I have warned all responsible for crimes that they will be held accountable," he added. In the message, Ban also noted that the United Nations is strengthening its presence in South Sudan and will do its best to stop the violence and help the country build a better future for all.
The UN Security Council on Tuesday approved a recommendation to almost double the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to better protect civilians from violence.According to the resolution, the UNMISS will consist of a military component of up to 12,500 troops of all ranks and of a police component. It currently has more than 6,800 troops and police in the country.
Deep differences had emerged between two groups within the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement after Kiir removed Machar from office in July.
Kiir said Monday he was ready to begin talks with his rival “without preconditions" to end the current crisis in the country.South Sudan won independence from Sudan in July 2011. United Nations (Xinhua)