By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
April 22, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – A new round of peace talks between the South Sudanese government and rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar has been adjourned, a rebel official confirmed on Tuesday.
The fourth round peace negotiations aimed at ending over four months old conflict in the world’s youngest nation was supposed to resume on Wednesday 23 April in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The spokesperson for the SPLM/A-in-Opposition rebel’s negotiating team, Yohanis Musa, told Sudan Tribune that the East African mediators have officially informed them that this round of peace talks has been postponed to Sunday 27 April.
The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) - the regional bloc brokering talks between the two parties - did not clarify why talks were postponed despite ongoing heavy fighting to take control of key oil towns and reports of mass killings based on ethnic lines.
“It has been postponed for reasons we don’t know” said Musa, adding that the rebel’s delegation has been at venue of the talks since Monday. It is not known whether the government delegation has arrived at the venue yet.
South Sudan had been shaken by the conflict since it began in mid-December pitting supporters of Riek Machar and those opposed to president Salva Kiir against those who have remained loyal to the rump SPLM.
Kiir accuses his former deputy of attempting a coup but this has been denied by the SPLM-in-Opposition, which was formed from defectors from the army and ruling SPLM.
The two SPLM warring factions signed a fragile ceasefire agreement on 23 January but it was quickly broken by both sides.
Nonetheless, on 11 April the IGAD mediation team announced the deployment of
Monitoring and Verification Teams (MVTs) to monitor the cessation of hostilities.
The first team was deployed to Bor, in Jonglei State on 1 April followed by similar deployments on 5 April in Bentiu which has been recently captured by the rebels. Also a third team is deployed in Malakal on 15 April.