March 16, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels chief negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, has questioned the decision and intention of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) members states to deploy additional troops to the war-torn region.
- Head of the rebel delegation, Taban Deng Gai, attends the opening ceremony of South Sudan’s negotiation in Addis Ababa, January 4, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)
He said the decision was "ill-advised" and unnecessary since the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has a force of over 12,000 fully mandated to protect the civilians in times of crisis such as the current violence between the government of president Salva Kiir and the rebels led by the former vice president, Riek Machar.
The IGAD member states resolved to deploy to South Sudan unknown numbers of forces from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi to protect the oilfields and other vital installations which President Salva Kiir’s government may fail to protect.
The leader of the SPLM/A-in-Opposition, Riek Machar, also condemned the proposed deployment of the troops.
"This is an unfortunate decision by IGAD to interfere in the internal conflict. We reject it and condemn it in the strongest terms. It is an attempt to regionalise the internal conflict," he told Sudan Tribune on Friday by phone from one of his bases in Upper Nile state.
The former vice president, turned rebel leader, said the decision casts doubt on the neutrality of the IGAD member states in the conflict.
"If IGAD member states who mediate the peace talks want to interfere militarily in the conflict, we may rethink our participation in the talks," he warned.
Uganda, another IGAD member, deployed thousands of troops initially to protect what it called “vital installations”, but ended up joining government’s forces fighting the rebels.
The rebels’ chief negotiator further echoed his leader’s rejection of the troops deployments.
"This force would be operating parallel to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) peace keeping operation…The UN is an overarching and an inclusive body. Why should another force be created and deployed, if it has the same intentions as the UNMISS peace keeping force?" Deng said in a statement seen by Sudan Tribune.
He criticised IGAD for coming up with a decision which was neither part of the cessation of hostilities agreement nor consented by the opposition group.
Deng as a result questioned the neutrality and capacity of IGAD in handling the peace process.
"The SPLM Delegation in the peace negotiations that have been taking place since early January 2014 expresses deep concerns with the handling of peace and security matters by the regional block - the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD)", he said.
He further said that instead of coming up with new controversial decisions, IGAD should have made sure that the agreements signed by the two parties were implemented, including the withdrawal of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), which he said failed to take place.
The rebels chief negotiator also criticised IGAD for its silence while President Kiir’s government is further violating the agreement on release of political detainees, saying instead of releasing the other four detainees, Kiir drags them to court while calling for return of the other 7 released political leaders to go back to Juba for trial.
Deng did not, however, indicate whether his delegation would boycott the expected resumption of the peace talks on 20 March, but said his rebel group will not continue to endure the violations and contradictions.
"IGAD should either be sincere in its mediation efforts or tell us in no uncertain terms that it is with the Government of General Salva Kiir Mayardit", he said.