May 12, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, said political pressure and Friday’s tense atmosphere within the Ethiopian prime minister’s palace ensured a peace agreement with opposition leader Riek Machar was signed without conducting face to face talks.
- Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (R) looks on as South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar (C) and president Salva Kiir (L) exchange signed peace agreement documents in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
“The prime minister of Ethiopia (Hailemariam Desalegn) told me you must work for peace today, not tomorrow to stop this death in the country,” Kiir told members of his cabinet and supporters at Juba airport on Sunday.
He said Desalegn uttered the same statements while meeting Machar.
“The prime minister told Riek that you guys will not leave this place if you don’t sign this agreement. He (Desalegn) told me the same statement in the morning (Friday) that if you don’t sign this document, I will imprison you here,” said Kiir.
“I told him [Desalegn] that if you imprison me in this nice house, I am sure I will be well looked after and there will be no need to return to Juba,” he added amidst cheers.
The South Sudanese leader said he wanted to sign the peace deal after reading the entire document while his nemesis demanded adjustments in the final agreement.
President Kiir and his political rival did not hold the proposed direct talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa so as to reach a deal on ending the ongoing conflict.
President Kiir said he extended his hand to greet Machar after the Ethiopian leader, separating the two South Sudanese rivals, repeatedly called for peace.
Both warring parties on Friday recommitted themselves to a cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January, but was never observed as fighting escalated.
The speed with which both parties to the conflict agreed on the document spelling out ceasefire, discussion for transitional government and allowing humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas surprised many experts with many doubting their commitment.
On Sunday, rebels accused government troops of breaching the ceasefire deal after it allegedly launched series of attacks on its Unity and Upper Nile states positions.
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson, Phillip Aguer dismissed the rebel claims as a "lie" and instead accused the latter of violating Friday’s peace agreement.