May 14, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Sources close to the intra South Sudanese peace talks in Addis Ababa have revealed that high level talks have taken place between the leadership of the rebel SPLM-In-Opposition of Riek Machar and the 12 former detainees led by the former secretary-general of the SPLM, Pagan Amum, aimed at forging possible collaboration between the parties.
- Pagan Amum (Getty)
“The two groups have been in consultations for the last two days on the way forward. This is whether to join ranks under one organization, or remain separate groups that would only collaborate as they share vision and objectives for reforms in the country,” a source who preferred anonymity told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
The group include Pagan Amum, former SPLM secretary general, Mama Robecca Nyandeng, presidential advisor and widow of late leader John Garang, Deng Alor, former cabinet affairs minister, John Luk, former justice minister, Kosti Manibe, former finance minister, Oyai Deng, former security minister, Gier Chuang, former minister for roads, Madut Biar, former minister of telecommunications, Majak Agot, former deputy defence minister, Cirino Hiteng, former youth minister, Chol Tong, former Lakes state governor and Ezekiel Lol, former diplomat to US.
Prior to the 15 December 2013 violence which erupted in South Sudan, the politicians who are senior members in the SPLM, were allied to the former party deputy chairman, Riek Machar. On 6 December 2013, they held a joint press conference in the nation’s capital, Juba, calling for reform in the party and accusing the party chairman, Salva Kiir of “dictatorial tendencies.”
Following the violence, they were all arrested, except Robecca Nyandeng. Seven of them were released two months later but Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng, Majak Agot and Ezekiel Lol, remained in detention, as they had been accused of coup attempt. They were however released five months later in April for lack of evidences to support the alleged coup.
The first seven released former detainees however played a neutral position in the peace talks, calling themselves a “third bloc” which did not want to join either side in the conflict, despite being named by Machar as members of his delegation and demanded for their release throughout the peace talks.
"The SPLM-in-Opposition felt betrayed by the attitude of their former comrades when they decided not to join the armed resistance," the source added.
Analysts see the position adopted by the former detainees as an attempt to make themselves look like “good guys” in the eyes of the international community so that they may snatch the proposed interim government’s leadership if both president Salva Kiir and opposition leader, Riek Machar, were to be forced to step aside.
However, the recent shift in the roadmap agreement which necessitates Kiir and Machar to spearhead and negotiate the terms of the transitional governance and its leadership provides slim chance for the g-12 to lead the transition.
The five-month old bloody conflict, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced over a million people, erupted when president Salva Kiir allegedly ordered his presidential guards unit commander to disarm the Nuer soldiers within the guards.
Kiir who had been under pressure from reformists within the ruling party, including his arch rival, Machar, accused the latter of attempted coup. Machar on the other hand dismissed the allegation, saying Kiir was using the “false” accusation in order to get rid of reformists in the party.
He also said that the president tried to arrest him and as a result he decided to escape and was forced to form an “armed resistance” after government forces continued to pursue him in the bushes.
A shaky peace talks to resolve the conflict has been ongoing in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).