South Sudan opposition leader kept under 'house arrest', as EU aid chief says the world is 'running out of patience'

South Sudan's government has denied placing any restrictions on Lam Akol, as the war has killed tens of thousands of people rages on

A South Sudanese opposition leader who has spoken out against both sides in the civil war said Saturday he was spending a second day under house arrest without any explanation from the government.

Opposition politician Lam Akol said his home in the capital Juba, which is under the control of the government loyal to President Salva Kiir, was surrounded by security personnel on Thursday night, and on Saturday his home was still surrounded.

“It is still the same. I cannot move,” he told AFP by telephone, adding there had also been no communication from the government.

South Sudan’s government has denied placing any restrictions on Akol, although witnesses have confirmed his home has been surrounded by security forces and vehicles.

Akol is the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) party, and has spoken out against both Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, whose forces have been at war since December 2013.

Akol is a former warlord who fought on both sides during Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war.

He comes from Upper Nile State where ethnic rebels have recently been engaged in fighting with government troops, and experts say the government restrictions on him are likely to be linked to the fact that members of his ethnic group have started fighting government forces.

Meanwhile, the European Union’s aid chief said Saturday that South Sudan’s warring leaders must strike a compromise deal, warning the international community was running out of patience over the country’s civil war.

Young boy soldiers sit on February 10, 2015 with their rifles at a ceremony of the child soldiers disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration in Pibor oversawn by UNICEF and partners on February 10, 2015

“The war and the blame games must stop, and they must stop now—it is high time for peace,” said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Christos Stylianides, after travelling to both government and opposition strongholds in the war-torn country to plead with leaders to end fighting. 

Peace talks brokered by regional powers collapsed in March, with both sides accused of talking little and drinking hard in Addis Ababa hotels, racking up the bills but with nothing to show for it.

“The international community is becoming very frustrated,” Stylianides told AFP, although he declined to say whether the EU would make further sanctions on military or political leaders, after placing asset freezes and travel bans last year on two commanders on both sides. 

He said forces on all sides had to ensure aid workers could access those affected—and were not themselves attacked. “They need access to vulnerable communities and the victims… and all players on the ground on all sides must safeguard that access,” he said. 

The war that is devastating the world’s youngest nation has killed tens of thousands of people, analysts and experts say. It has also left over half of the country’s 12 million people in need of aid, according to the United Nations. 

“It is very painful to see such difficult circumstances on the ground. The eyes of the mothers of the malnourished children, circumstances that cannot be accepted as a human,” he said after visiting a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Leer, an opposition town in the northern Unity state that is cut off by government troops. 

“The international community is here to help but cannot support development if there is no peace,” said at the end of a three day visit. Over two million South Sudanese have fled the fighting, with over 520,000 of those now refugees neighbouring Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.

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