January 9, 2014 (WASHINGTON) – A political rift within South Sudan’s governing Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and not a failed coup attempt as government claims caused the widespread violence that hit the country in mid-December, a United States official said on Thursday.
- Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs(channelstv)
“We’ve not seen any evidence that this was a coup attempt, but it certainly was the result of a huge political rift between Riek Machar and the president,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on South Sudan crisis.
We think that they should resolve this through political talks and negotiations, not war, she added.
The US official’s remarks could overshadow South Sudan leader Salva Kiir’s earlier claims implicating his former deputy Riek Machar in alleged coup attempt. Machar denied the accusation, saying it was the regime’s tactic to suppress party opposition.
The violence, which started in the capital, Juba later spread to the key town of the country, with the United Nation estimating more than 1,000 people killed and nearly 200,000 displaced.
Since then, however, the US and other international community have sought diplomatic efforts seeking an end to what has now been described as the worst-ever conflict in South Sudan’s post-secession era.
“We have galvanized support to end hostilities and open a broader dialogue between the two sides; called for accountability for atrocities; sought to secure the release of political detainees now being held in Juba”, Greenfield said.
The official, in her statement, also called on the warring parties in the conflict to cease all forms of hostilities, stressing that “this crisis will not be solved on the battlefield”.
She further expressed concerns the continued detention of political prisoners arrested in connection with the violence in Juba, saying they “must” be released to enhance the ongoing negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Direct talks between South Sudan’s warring parties are currently underway in Addis Ababa under the mediation of regional leaders from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“These negotiations offer the best hope for South Sudan and the region. An agreement to end hostilities will provide much needed time and space for dialogue to begin on the core political and governance issues that are at the root of this crisis”, stressed the US assistant secretary for state for African affairs.
Princeton Lyman, the ex-US envoy to the two Sudan’s largely attributed the current crisis in the new nation to the weaknesses within the country’s political institutions.
He described the SPLM, which he likened to South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), as a liberation army with no political structures.
"The weakness of political institutions, the overlap of party and government, and party and army, all contributed to the inability of the SPLM as a party to resolve these growing developments", said Lyman, now a senior advisor to the US Institute of Peace President.