JUBA, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The African Union (AU) on Monday condemned the ambush and killing of six aid workers in South Sudan, urging the armed actors in the conflict-hit nation to respect international humanitarian laws and give unconditional protection to aid workers.
"We strongly condemn and denounce the killing of the six humanitarian actors who have come here to help the people and yet they have been killed," Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat told reporters in Juba.
The UN said Sunday that six aid workers were ambushed and killed over the weekend on a road linking the capital Juba to Pibor town in Boma State.
Mahamat concluded a two-day visit to South Sudan on Monday, his first visit to South Sudan since his assumption of office earlier this month.
He said the August 2015 peace agreement remained the only hope ending violence in the East African nation, calling on the country's warring parties to end warfare and stick to the implementation of the pact.
Mahamat furthered urged the South Sudanese government to ensure inclusivity for a national dialogue initiative called for by President Salva Kiir last year.
"The first and primary responsibility for the implementation of the peace agreement is for the parties themselves. They have to get together and implement the agreement. But we have heard fighting between the parties," Mahamat said.
"Therefore, the AU's work and duty is to try to mend the fences, bring the parties together so that they can implement the agreement for wellbeing of the people of South Sudan. There can only be political solution to the problem," he added.
South Sudan's Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomoro said the government would investigate the deaths of the aid workers.
"In South Sudan, we have multiple armed groups, some of them are gangs and thieves who are lingering around the country and they have the same uniform as the SPLA, they have the guns as SPLA, and they can cause havoc in order to discredit the government," Lomoro said.
"Our security agents are working to determine what actually happened before we can issue a statement on the matter," he said.
The UN said South Sudan has become one of the most hostile environments for aid workers to operate in the world after outbreak of civil war in December 2013.
Some 79 aid workers have been killed since civil war erupted in 2013, with at least 12 aid workers killed this year alone.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in South Sudan, but was again shattered by fresh violence in July, 2016.
Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with millions of others displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure, since December 2013.
Last month, the UN declared localized famine in parts of South Sudan, warning that some 100,000 people, nearly half of the population, is in dire need of food aid.