December 30, 2013 (JUBA) – As the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member countries try to end nearly three weeks of conflict in South Sudan, some of its leaders have been accused of actions that could worsen the situation.
- President Uhuru Kenyatta prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn and President Yoweri Museveni at the IGAD meeting on December 27, 2013 (Photo: PSCU)
The latest accusation comes as regional leaders try to broker a peace deal between South Sudan’s Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, ahead of their Tuesday meeting in the capital, Juba.
On Friday, leaders from the IGAD countries held special discussions on the South Sudan situation in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi and resolved that both parties in the conflict immediately cease ongoing hostilities and embrace dialogue.
Sources privy to the close-door talks, also hinted on the possibility of a power-sharing deal between government and the opposition, as regional leaders seek to restore peace and stability in the new nation.
IGAD’s involvement, some activists and politicians say, will not quickly bring to an end South Sudan’s current conflict, citing what they called “double standards” from its leaders like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, now in Juba for tomorrow’s meeting.
“[Museveni treats the leaders of IGAD like his children. They did not question what he meant by ‘his country’s efforts in securing critical infrastructure and installations in the Republic of South Sudan’,” said Peter Adwok Nyaba in response to resolutions from the Nairobi summit.
Nyaba, a former minister for higher education, was among the 11 senior South Sudanese politicians detained in connection with the alleged coup attempt in the country, before his release on Friday.
He further alleged that Uganda has nearly 3,000 troops and some war planes now involved in the country’s conflict, a claim Ugandan army officials dismissed.
“It was about time the civil society started to make noise although this will not stop the conflict as long as it is viewed in terms of Dinka-Nuer dichotomy,” said the ex-minister.
The IGAD leaders, he added, have failed to secure release of the detained SPLM politicians, yet forging way for dialogue.
But, in an interview with Sudan Tribune last week, Paddy Ankunda, the spokesperson of the Ugandan army (UPDF) said their forces were only in South Sudan to rescue Ugandans trapped in the violence.
More than 1,000 people are feared dead and tens of thousands left homeless after violence, which initially started in the capital, Juba, spontaneously spread to three of the country’s 10 states.
South Sudan leader, Salva Kiir blames his former vice-president for the violence, while the latter downplayed it as a ploy by government to crack down on opposition in the ruling party (SPLM).
A South Sudanese civil society entity said IGAD and peace advocates across the globe should first push for immediate agreement on ceasefire and ensure political dialogue takes place between the conflicting parties without delay.
“Citizens of South Sudan want nothing apart from ceasefire and political dialogue so as to end the violent conflict that is claiming lives of South Sudanese innocent citizens”, Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) said in a statement.
Scores of world leaders have, meanwhile, welcomed the IGAD-initiated talks, seen as key in resolving the current turmoil in the country.
Catherine Ashton, the vice-president of the European Union Commission, pledged the institution’s firm support to effort of the African Union and IGAD towards ending the conflict in the country.
“We will continue our efforts set to relieve the humanitarian suffering”, Ashton said, but stressed that only South Sudan’s own political leaders can bring the country back to the path of peace.
Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General on Saturday welcomed the work of East African countries in peacefully resolving the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, offering his "full support" to the regional efforts.
"The secretary-general welcomes the outcome of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Summit held on 27 December, appointing a mediation team to work with the government of South Sudan and opposition in reaching a cease fire, the release of the detainees and building toward a process of peaceful dialogue," he said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
The world body, Ki Moon assured, will continue to do everything within its means to protect the country’s civilians at risk and provide necessary humanitarian assistance.