January 16, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit has reiterated that he will not agree to release political detainees until all due legal processes have been completed, as specified under the transitional constitution, his office said on Thursday.
- South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has steadfastly maintained he is not willing to negotiate with rebel forces over the release of political detainees currently being held in connection to an alleged coup attempt on 15 December (AP)
The comments come as peace talks currently underway in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, aimed at reaching a ceasefire agreement between the two warring parties remain deadlocked, amid disagreement over the release of the prisoners.
Meanwhile the head of the government delegation to the IGAD sponsored talks with the rebels, Nhial Deng Nhial, has returned to Juba along with the minister of information, Michael Makuei Lueth, for more consultations with the government officials in Juba.
“The government has said time and again it is committed to peaceful dialogue with the rebel group so that this situation gets out of the way so that we begin to open a new page. This position has not changed. We are committed to this principle, and expect the other side to reciprocate”, South Sudan’s deputy foreign affairs minister”, Peter Bashir Gbandi, said .
“Unfortunately, the other side is raising conditions which are unacceptable”, he added.
The South Sudanese government has continued to defy mounting international pressure to release the detainees, which include the ruling party’s former secretary-general, Pagan Amum.
Gbandi said his government will not be swayed by demands set by rebel forces as preconditions for ceasefire negotiations.
“Despite assurances of our commitment to peaceful dialogue so that these issues are resolved amicably as brothers and sisters, we are being given conditions that we release political detainees first before [the] ceasefire is affected”, said Gbandi, adding that no other government in the world would agree to such terms.
“Since they are believed to have played a critical role, they cannot just be released simply [because] there is a pressure. Legal processes and procedures have to be followed according to the constitution”, he added.
Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny confirmed that no progress had been made in negotiations for a cessation of hostilities.
He maintained the government would only release officials currently behind bars once all necessary legal procedures and processes had been completed.
Ateny has also accused pro-Machar rebels of being a “glove-puppet” to foreign governments, without elaborating further.
He criticised rebel forces of using the political prisoners had no bearing on the root causes of the current conflict in South Sudan and therefore the matter should not be used as a precondition to drive the agenda of peace talks.
“The rebels are becoming [a] puppet of some western countries. They are now raising conditions which were not the cause of the rebellion. They are asking for the release of the political detainees, lifting the state of emergency and the withdrawal of the Ugandan troops”, said Ateny, emphasising that the government would not accept such conditions
HOPES FOR PEACE DEAL
Meanwhile, the government’s lead negotiator, Nhial Deng Nhial, has expressed some optimism for a peaceful resolution to the current crisis, saying the two sides continued to show willingness to sign an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, despite ongoing stumbling blocks which continue to derail the talks.
“We are hopeful that these talks produce desirable results. There is [an] intense process that is going on with the aim of exploring [the] best options and possibilities to expedite a possible ceasefire”, said Nhial.
“Yes, there are reservations, but we are working with our partners and other actors to see that they are overcome. The other side insists on the release of the political detainees. They also want [the] state of emergency to be lifted in the two states of Jonglei and Unity. There are other issues”, said Nhial.