By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
June 5, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – A multi-stakeholders’ symposium on South Sudan which was supposed to kick off on Thursday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, has been delayed.
The three-day symposium, which was organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African regional bloc mediating peace negotiations, was delayed after civil society organisations allied with the rebel SPLM in Opposition failed to arrive at the venue due to logistical constraints.
Sudan Tribune was told late on Thursday that the logistical issues affecting civil society organisations based in Kenya and South Sudan have since been resolved, with the groups expected to arrive in the Ethiopian capital on Friday.
UDF BLOCKED FROM TRAVELLING
Reports have emerged the South Sudanese government allegedly blocked a delegation representing the United Democratic Front (UDF) from travelling to Ethiopia.
The opposition delegation had been due to take part in the multi-party symposium at the invitation of IGAD.
Sources in Addis Ababa told Sudan Tribune that South Sudan security personnel at Juba airport had confiscated the group’s passports as they attempted to leave on Wednesday.
Delegation members were reportedly told the measures were on the orders of government authorities.
South Sudanese activist Edmund Yakani confirmed to Sudan Tribune on Friday that the UDF team and civil society members had been prevented from travelling to Addis Ababa for the talks.
Peter Abdelrahman Sule, who leads the legally recognised political party, has been critical of the Kiir administration and was jailed in the past over accusations he was involved in staging a rebellion.
Meanwhile, a fresh round of talks between South Sudan’s warring parties which was meant to resume on 2 June has also been postponed.
IGAD has not provided any official explanation for the latest delay in face to face talks between the two parties.
However, a source close to the peace process told Sudan Tribune that peace negotiations were delayed to allow the multi party symposium to go ahead, after which a decision would be made on when to resume talks.
“IGAD will announce the timetable for next round of talks based on the outcome of the all-inclusive symposium,” the source said.
The symposium is part of the ongoing peace negotiations aimed at ending almost six months of conflict in the young nation, which erupted in mid-December last year following a political split in the ruling SPLM.
The planned symposium is expected to bring together up to 150 representatives, including government and opposition delegates, political parties, faith-based groups, civil society and traditional leaders, with the aim of initiating an inclusive mediation process based on multi-party dialogue.
IGAD says its mediators will use the meeting to determine possible areas of common ground on thematic issues in order to advance future negotiations.
Peace talks have stalled on several occasions amid ongoing disagreements between the South Sudanese government and the breakaway rebel movement led by former vice-president Riek Machar, with a ceasefire deal signed between the two parties failing to halt violence on the ground.
It is not known if the delay in the resumption of talks will affect a scheduled meeting between president Salva Kiir and Machar on 9 June to “engage in substantive discussions” as constituted by the mediation process.
The planned meeting comes after the two rival leaders signed a renewed peace deal on 9 May in which they agreed to form a transitional government and write a new constitution for South Sudan ahead of elections.