By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
March 21, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The South Sudanese government has officially notified mediators from the East African regional bloc, IGAD, less than 24 hours after it opposed the participation of its seven senior politicians in the ongoing peace talks in Ethiopia.
- The South Sudan government’s chief negotiator, Nhial Deng Nhial, speaks during the resumption of peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 11 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)
Sudan Tribune has reliably learned that Nhial Deng Nhial, South Sudan’s lead negotiator at the talks arrived Friday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa minus the other members on his team.
Juba on Thursday said it would only participate in the negotiations with rebels on condition that IGAD excluded the seven political figures currently in Kenya from taking part as a third bloc.
The seven former detainees, now in Nairobi for safety reasons, were released under an initial peace accord signed in Addis Ababa in January.
Nhial, sources told Sudan Tribune Friday, also held talks with Ethiopia’s Prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn on the South Sudan situation and how to politically settle the crises.
Member of the SPLM-In-Opposition have, however, insisted they were not surprised by the recent change in South Sudan government position, which came a day to resumption of the new round of talks.
The rebels argued that the participation of the former political detainees on the negotiation table, would nullify the government argument of "false accusation" against the remaining four detainees currently on treason trial for alleged involvement in coup attempt.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his allies, a rebel negotiator claimed, “don’t want the formation of any interim arrangement because they are implicated in war crimes and crime against humanity”.
“(..) And they fear they might lose their positions and will be subjected to criminal prosecution whether through special tribunal, hybrid court or South Sudan local justice mechanism that shall be established to try these crimes and abuses of human rights”, he further said.
Several members of the opposition forces have also accused the Juba government of continuously violating the ceasefire deal signed by both warring parties, saying the recent takeover of the Upper Nile state capital, Malakal was to bolster government position at the talks.
Malakal, a strategic town north of Juba, has changed hands several times between the army and rebels, with the latter controlling if for over a month, before government forces recaptured it early this week.
Meanwhile, the rebels have urged the international community to call for immediate resignation of President Kiir and individuals found to have been directly involved in human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.
They further called for sanctions to be imposed on the “criminals” allegedly killing people in the South Sudan capital as well as other parts of the country.
Despite all these demands, however, officials from the negotiation team reaffirmed their readiness to engage in talks with government, which it largely accuses together with Ugandan troops of continued violation of cessation of hostilities agreement.
Violence erupted in Juba last year following a dispute between members of the presidential guards. An estimated more than 10,000 people have been killed and nearly a million displaced as the conflict spread to three of the country’s 10 states.
South Sudanese civil society activists have called for a comprehensive and wider participation of all sections of the society for the conflict to be amicably resolved.