South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have finally inked an agreement to end the war.
The two met in Khartoum on Monday to continue their face-to- face talks and mute all the stumbling blocks to the peace in the young nation.
On Tuesday, the two leaders reached compromises on a number of outstanding issues.
The areas agreed upon include a permanent ceasefire, cantonments for all forces and the deployment of forces by Igad and the African Union to safeguard the ceasefire.
President Kiir and Dr Machar further agreed to have three capital cities; namely Juba, Wau and Malakal on temporary basis to host the three proposed vice-presidents.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said he hopes his meeting with arch-foe Riek Machar in Khartoum that was held yesterday will bring an "immediate end" to the devastating war in their country.
Machar and Kiir met at a Khartoum convention centre for a new round of peace talks after a meeting between the two heavyweights last week in Ethiopia failed to achieve a breakthrough.
The latest rounds of talks between the bitter rivals come as East African leaders launched new efforts to secure peace in South Sudan, where warring factions face a looming deadline to avert UN sanctions.
While the faltered first round held Thursday in Addis Ababa was brokered by Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed, Monday's meeting in Khartoum was hosted by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in the presence of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
"I have come to really bring this unnecessary war in our country to an immediate end, and I hope that Doctor Riek Machar is ready to see my point," Kiir said, as the meeting got underway in the presence of Bashir and Museveni.
Machar too raised hopes that peace was possible in South Sudan, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly four million displaced since fighting erupted in December 2013.
"There is a chance for peace and there is a way to achieve peace," Machar said, in his first remarks to journalists in more than two years.
The two leaders shook hands and later stood alongside Bashir and Museveni with their hands raised as the meeting commenced, an AFP correspondent said.
Two weeks of talks
South Sudan's war began after Kiir fell out with his then deputy Machar in December 2013, dashing the optimism that accompanied its independence from Sudan just two years earlier.
It is unclear how long the two leaders will be in Khartoum, but their delegations are scheduled to discuss over the next two weeks thorny issues including power-sharing and security arrangements in South Sudan, officials say.
The two delegations will later travel to Nairobi for more talks.
In May, the United Nations Security Council gave the two sides a month to reach a peace deal or face sanctions.
"The South Sudan crisis has impacted on the entire stability of the region, which is why the international community is thinking of imposing sanctions," said Bashir.
"But Sudan rejects imposing sanctions on South Sudanese leaders as sanctions will only increase the suffering of South Sudanese people."
Kiir and Machar's meeting in Addis Ababa was their first face-to-face encounter in nearly two years, and their meeting in Khartoum is the first in Sudan since the fighting erupted in South Sudan.
The talks in Addis Ababa faltered when South Sudan's government declared that it "had enough" of Machar just a day after the meeting.
"As the people of South Sudan, not the president alone, but as the people of South Sudan, we are saying enough is enough," South Sudanese government spokesman Michael Makuei said Friday.
Makuei rejected Machar's presence in any transitional government, but did not rule out the involvement of other rebel figures.
His remarks indicate the personal enmity between Kiir and Machar - which lies at the heart of the conflict is as strong as ever.
Before leaders met in Ethiopia, Machar's SPLM-IO rebel group had dismissed the latest peace efforts as "unrealistic".
South Sudan descended into civil war after Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup against him, sparking violence between the two factions that was fuelled by brooding ethnic tensions.
Since a 2015 peace deal collapsed in July 2016 with Machar fleeing to South Africa, Kiir's government has gained the upper hand militarily as the opposition has splintered into a myriad of factions.
Initially largely fought between South Sudan's two largest ethnic groups - Kiir's Dinka and Machar's Nuer - smaller groups have since spawned their own militias, raising questions about the ability of either leader to halt the violence.
A landlocked state with a large ethnic mix, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long and brutal war.
According to the signed Framework Agreement, seen by the media, the two rivals agreed to allow the Khartoum government to secure the oil fields in South Sudan in coordination with the Juba administration, and to rehabilitate the wells to restore the previous levels of production.
They also declared to work together again for the third time after their long disagreement proved difficult for peace and stability.
Sudanese President Omar Bashir on Monday promised to end the war in South Sudan and pave the way for rigorous development in the war-torn state.
His promise seems to be bearing positive results on the peace process.
“I would like to assure everyone that Sudan will work hard and try all measures based on our experience during the war and peace times to ensure that this initiative is a success.
It is now up to the regional heads of state to move the South Sudan peace process forward by enabling a face-to-face meeting between President Salva Kiir and his nemesis, Dr Riek Machar.
The decision by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) Council of Ministers in Addis Ababa on Friday says the two leaders must agree between themselves.
“Even if you bring Angel Gabriel to mediate, it will not make a difference until the two leaders meet face to face and agree on the way forward. This is because there is much trust deficit between the two that is difficult to bridge,” said an official in Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who was among the Igad Council of Ministers who recently visited both President Kiir and Dr Machar.
However, the face-to-face meeting — whose date has to be decided by the Igad heads of state meeting before the AU meeting in July — remains a tall order since President Kiir had made it clear that he can no longer work with Dr Machar, who leads the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO).
In turn, Dr Machar — who has been under house arrest in South Africa since November 2016 — says he has lost all trust in President Kiir.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has vowed to crush the rebels fighting to dislodge him from power.
President Kiir told a military parade at the army headquarters in Juba on Tuesday that many people were lured into rebellion by the prospects of higher ranks in the military or the government.
He said such intentions posed a major threat to the nation's peace and stability.
A selfish war
President Kiir said the war waged against his leadership had no national agenda but was the work of individuals keen to get higher positions.
“The war being fought is a war without a clear national direction and political goals. It is a selfish war to gain ranks and positions in the government without effort,” President Kiir noted.
His sentiments seemed to touch on a power-sharing formula proposed recently by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), which prefers four deputy presidents for South Sudan.
“There are many people (rebels) who want to become generals in the army….some coming from cattle camps. This is unacceptable this time,” he said.
President Kiir said rewarding rebels with higher positions was encouraging instability in the young nation and sabotaging development and the co-existence among the South Sudan communities.
“It is only in South Sudan where rebels are rewarded with ranks and positions. In other countries, rebels are rewarded with death,'' said the president.
He directed the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) in Juba to double their efforts and get rid of proxies across the country.
“So, I want you the national army to continue defeating these rogues,” he said.
The government and the rebels factions were preparing to attend the last round of peace talks next month facilitated by Igad.
Ababu Namwamba, who represented Kenya at the talks, says when the Igad ministers delivered a message from President Kiir that Dr Machar is free to return home and choose his own protection force, the rebel leader termed it as “a joke”.
Cessation of Hostilities agreement
According to Mabior Garang de Mabior, the SPLM-IO director of information and public relations, the rebel group has welcomed the decision with caution in light of Juba’s intransigence and continued violation of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement.
“The SPLM-IO, despite being hopeful of the prospects of a negotiated settlement, would like to express our concern regarding any imposition of an agreement on the parties. It is our contention that there are no shortcuts to peace, as demonstrated by the collapse of the Agreement in July, 2016,” said Mr Mabior.
In March, the Igad Council of Ministers had resolved that Dr Machar be released from house arrest and relocated to another country that does not share borders with South Sudan on condition that he renounces violence and does not undermine the peace talks that were set to resume in Addis Ababa on April 26.
But SPLM-IO had insisted that he must be freed without conditions as per the Cessation of Hostilities agreement on prisoners of war signed last December.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the UN Security Council gave South Sudan’s warring sides a month to reach a peace deal or face possible sanctions.
The resolution requires UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report by June 30 on whether a ceasefire agreed in December — the latest in a string of truce deals — was holding, and whether the sides have “come to a viable political agreement.”
KAMPALA. At least 61 South Sudanese government soldiers have defected to the South Sudan Liberation Army, a rebel group royal to Riek Machar, latest reports indicate.
The soldiers reportedly surrendered after their commanders dispatched them to attack the rebel positions in Bieh State.
“Today (yesterday) in the morning hours, the SPLA IO intercepted 61 armed regime’s fighters who were dispatched from Waat to attack Akobo and destabilize it. However, the fighters only armed with new AK-47 and 90 rounds of ammunition each decided to surrender to the SPLA IO without resistance. They were welcomed by Maj Gen James Otong Liah Deputy Sector 3 Commander and Akobo East County Commissioner Cde Jamuth Yuot Dak. The SPLA IO welcomes these soldiers, but directs its forces to be alert as this exposed the negative intention of the regime against the SPLA IO in Akobo.” Lt Col Paul Lam Gabriel, the SPLA IO deputy spokesperson said.
He also said prisoners of war who had been detained at the military intelligence and national security detention centres were also transported in a plane to reinforce the ground troops to attack the rebel positions in Adar State.
“The regime dispatched 75 soldiers in a plane to Pagak with the mission to reinforce the planned attack on SPLA IO positions and proceed to Maiwut. The 75 fighters are Prisoners of War (POW) picked from the Military Intelligence and National Security detention centres. Their deployment to Pagak is not an integration or a release but an indirect capital punishment to be executed during this planned attacks,” Lam said.
According to Lam, other areas that have witnessed increased movement of soldiers in the recent weeks include Kaya, Poki, Kaya and Morobo all in Yei River State. He said on Saturday, three Land cruisers, One Woral truck and one APC all full of soldiers were dispatched from Juba to Kajo Keji to continue the aggression on the SPLA IO forces.
“This came about as the regime’s Governor of Yei River Emmanuel Adil plans to wipe out the SPLA IO from Yei River State before any peace is signed,” he said.
He has warned that SPLA IO will not just sit and wait to be attacked all the time. He has called on the different actors monitoring the peace process to intervene and stop the regime forces from continuous violations.
Government is yet to respond to the accusations by the rebels. Our repeated calls to the South Sudan army spokesperson, Brig. Lul Ruai couldn’t go through.
Ateny Wek Ateny, Gen. Salva Kiir’s spokesperson could not also be reached to verify the accusations and allegations of the surrender of government forces to the rebels.
For close to three weeks, rebels and government forces have been locked in fierce battles in different parts of the country, ahead of the high level revitalization meeting scheduled to take place in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Kajo Keji County has been the epicenter of fighting in the recent weeks with government forces on offensive against the rebels.
If not, the council “shall consider,” within five days of the report, slapping sanctions on South Sudan’s defence minister and five other officials and possibly imposing an arms embargo.
Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea argued that peace efforts must be given more time, but Ivory Coast — the third African country on the council — backed the resolution.
Ethiopia’s Ambassador Tekeda Alemu warned that sanctions could lead to the collapse of the regional peace effort by Igad.
“We in the region are also extremely frustrated,” Mr Tekeda said, but he added that the sanctions resolution “will be detrimental to the process.”
“We shall use our experience in the management of national and community dialogues to address all the issues,” President Bashir said.
Interestingly, however, the Sudanese leader is a suspect wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide committed in western Darfur region.
President Museveni appealed to key political players in South Sudan is to have constructive deliberations as they negotiate for peace, unity and concretize the ground for the development of their country.
"I used to see South Sudan developing but later it went into a standstill because of disunity. Today, we have had discussions on matters of peace in South Sudan and we have a good starting point to restore political normalcy. It was a good gesture that both His Excellency Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar shook hands, setting into motion the fruitful meeting we had today (June 25)," said Mr Museveni before adding: "I pledge full support and solidarity to ensure that South Sudan is back on the track of economic and social development. I thank His Excellency Omar el-Bashir for his concern over the political instability in South Sudan and for calling this meeting. I also salute Dr Machar for honouring this peace-making mission for the benefit of all people in his country and His Excellency Salva Kiir for being present too."