Juba Pull Out of Peace Talks, Rebels Accuse IGAD of Confusing the Process

south sudan negotiators
South Sudanese peace process has been held hostage by Ethiopia through the Chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin. His inept and inconsistent nature has been perfectly used by either party in the conflict to delay the signing of a final peace agreement. (L-R) Taban Deng Gai, Head of the rebel delegation and Nhial Deng Nhial from the government

By Sudan Tribune,

The South Sudanese government announced today that President Salva Kiir would not travel to the Ethiopian capital to meet his rival Riek Machar for peace talks as it has officially pull out of the talks despite 17 August deadline.

Martin Elia Lomoro, minister of cabinet affairs told reporters that government lead negotiators have been called back to Juba for consultations. Governors of the ten states were also called to Juba for consultations with the president.

“It is decided that the first thing to do is to recall the chief negotiator of the government to come and brief the leadership and stakeholders on where they have reached so far in the talks,” Lomoro revealed to reporters, after a cabinet meeting chaired by president Kiir on Friday and attended by governors of the ten states.

Lomoro said chief negotiator, Nhial Deng Nhial, will brief government on areas agreed or disagreed with the rebels in the peace proposal. He also alleged that there was “confusion” on who is in charge of the SPLM in opposition led by Machar after several military generals “disowned” him.

“This is essential because if the president is going to go to Addis Ababa, he must go with clear mind as to who he is going to meet and negotiate with. So we are requesting IGAD to establish and to inform us that whether Dr. Riek is still in charge,” he said.

He said the meeting also agreed to first establish in clear terms what was happening in the camp of the SPLM-IO because, he claimed, 13 of the generals in the ranks of the rebels have defected and declared Machar as not their leader.

Government Defies Threats

Cabinet minister Lomoro rebuked utterances attributed to IGAD’s chief mediator, Seyoum Mesfin, that the negotiators would not be allowed to leave the venue of the talks in Addis Ababa without signing a peace agreement on 17 August.

We feel this is not the attitude and a language of a mediator, but a language of somebody who has bad intentions for the Republic of South Sudan,” said Lomoro.

He criticised the IGAD mediation, saying the regional bloc’s leadership should rethink their position on the way that they approached the ongoing negotiations.

Meanwhile, South Sudan’s armed opposition faction under the leadership of the country’s former vice president, Riek Machar, has accused the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of further “confusing” the whole peace process in Addis Ababa, saying a peace deal may not be reached as planned.

“I don’t think IGAD is serious to mediate for a successful peace agreement in South Sudan. They are inconsistent, bias and confusing the whole peace process. They have now again distorted their so-called ‘peace compromise proposal’ per influence by president Yoweri Museveni of Uganda,” rebel leader’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune when contacted on phone on Thursday.

Dak revealed that a so-called ‘front-line states’ in their recent meeting in Uganda this week came up yet with amendments to their own ‘peace compromise proposal’ in which they changed provisions in the draft agreement.

The group calling itself the “Front-line States” composed of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan were invited for a meeting to Entebbe, Uganda, by president Yoweri Museveni.

Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn and Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, joined by the Sudanese foreign minister Gandour, held the Monday joint meeting during which president Museveni criticized the IGAD-Plus proposal as coming from the “White man” and was seeking for an African solution.

President Museveni and president Salva Kiir of South Sudan reportedly asked for changes to be made in the proposal as well as for the 17 August deadline to be extended to give the two warring parties ample time for direct negotiations.

However, the rebel leader’s press secretary said information the armed opposition has received from the IGAD chief mediator, Seyoum Mesfin, indicated that major unilateral changes surprisingly took place in the IGAD-Plus proposal.

“While the warring parties have been negotiating to try to agree on some of the contentious issues that can now be incorporated into the IGAD-Plus peace proposal as amendments, IGAD-without-Plus has stepped back by changing provisions and coming up yet with new proposals in the text,” Dak further lamented.

For instance, he said, the “front-line states’ were dragged by president Museveni into withdrawing the provision for power-sharing in the states. The IGAD-Plus proposal initially said in the three states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states in the greater Upper Nile region, the government would get 33%, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) would get 53% and the former detainees and political parties would equally share the remaining 14%.

“This time IGAD is saying there should be no power sharing in the states,” he said.

He said IGAD in the Uganda meeting had also reneged on its previous proposal which sought for demilitarization of the capital, Juba. The opposition supported the demilitarization of the capital, including state capitals and other major towns in the country, arguing that it would restore confidence and avoid repeat of massacres of civilians in the towns by the army.

Dak further added that on the security arrangements including command of the rival armies for a period of transition, unification and duration of the process, the front-line states said the issue would be left to army chief of staffs of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

He said the latest development has gone against the very peace proposal by IGAD-Plus which was supposed to be the basis for negotiations and agreement.

He said the armed opposition faction of the SPLM-IO will not accept this, criticizing IGAD for dwelling on conflicting interests among the regional actors instead of focusing on a consistent sustainable path to peace in South Sudan.

“It is better to call off the August 17 deadline because it would be a meaningless exercise,” he said.