The South Sudanese government on Monday hosted the launch of the Sudanese talks aimed at ending the conflict between the rebels of the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the government of Sudan.
President Museveni and Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed Ali attended the talks hosted by South Sudan president Salva Kiir, who is also struggling to fully implement the agreement between his government and his former vice Riek Machar.
Despite extending the formation of the transitional government from May to November, it is unlikely that both Dr Machar and Mr Kiir will, within one month, resolve their differences on the security arrangements and the number of states, which have been sticky issues ever since the talks started.
The representative of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) in Uganda, Mr Ambrose Lamin, yesterday said both parties must first agree on the security arrangements before Dr Machar returns to Juba.
“There are issues concerning the security arrangement that must be concluded [before he returns],” he said.
The warring parties have not agreed on the selection and training of the 50 per cent of the 83,000 necessary unified force.
Dr Machar’s core team, including his wife, is already in Juba, but Dr Machar has set security conditions for his return. In September, President Kiir said he would form a new government of national unity with or without Dr Machar by November 12.
The Opposition is also against president Kiir’s decision in 2015 to increase the number of states in South Sudan from 10 to 28.
Dr Machar and his Opposition wanted 21 states, saying they want a lean government.
But a statement issued by the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) on September 13 said “it is pleased with the positive progress” in the implementation of the agreement.
“The remaining critical tasks of the agreement can only be completed with unity and compromise. The mood in Juba is very encouraging. It is feasible to form a unity government in November 2019,” Ambassador Ismail Wais, Igad’s Special Envoy for South Sudan, said.
South Sudan plunged into war in 2013 after President Kiir accused Dr Machar of attempting to overthrow him.
Dr Machar later returned to Juba in 2016, but fighting resumed and he fled the country again.
The conflict has driven nearly four million people out of their homes.
During the Monday meeting attended by Mr Kiir, Mr Ali, Egyptian premier Mustafa Madbouly, Sudan’s Sovereign Council chairperson Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, President Museveni called on the parties to negotiate and end the conflict.
“I have returned from South Sudan, where I witnessed the launch of Sudan peace talks. I hope that the discussions will be centered in the correct ideology within the factions, to facilitate the building of a new Sudan, in a better-equipped Africa,” he said.
Gen Al-Burhan leads the Council that was formed after the ouster of former president Omar Al-Bashir in April.