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.”