June 10, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar on Tuesday agreed to end the ongoing conflict in the country and fully engage in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-led peace process.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 aimed at resolving conflict in the country peacefully (Photo: Reuters)
In a communiqué, IGAD said both leaders had committed themselves to the formation of a transitional government of national unity within 60 days and ensure unhindered humanitarian support to affected people with immediate effect.
An extraordinary summit, chaired by Ethiopia’s prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, was specifically convened by IGAD heads of states in Addis Ababa to discuss the South Sudan situation.
President Kiir and Machar met on the sidelines of the regional leaders’ summit seeking an end to the South Sudan crisis.
Summit participants applauded the two leaders on the signing of the landmark 9 May agreement, “which provided the basis for negotiating a transitional government of national unity; and committed them to ensure the inclusion of a broader range of South Sudanese stakeholders in the negotiations”.
IGAD regional leaders have also commended the initiation of the inclusive, multi-stakeholder phase of negotiations, through a symposium held from the 6-7 June, saying it provided a platform for constructive dialogue on key issues related to political transition and peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Over 200 South Sudanese participants drawn from a broad range of sectors and regions, including government, opposition, civil society and faith-based groups, attended the Addis Ababa conference.
IGAD mediators had earlier expressed concern over the failure by the two warring parties to adhere to provisions of signed ceasefire agreements, warning of tougher consequences.
IGAD member states also warned of possible “punitive” measures should parties to the South Sudanese conflict fail to honour their commitments to the resolutions contained in the communiqué.
The meeting between the two rival leaders was their second face to face meeting since conflict erupted in mid-December last year and follows the 9 May signing of a roadmap agreement to guide further negotiations.
Machar told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday after the meeting that both parties had recommitted themselves to respect the previous roadmap agreement and further negotiate a lasting peace agreement.
“We agreed to respect the roadmap agreement we signed on 9 May, recommitting ourselves to the cessation of hostilities agreement. We also agreed on free and unhindered humanitarian access to the needy populations,” Machar told Sudan Tribune from the Ethiopian capital on Tuesday.
The direct talks were held in the presence of Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and a number of regional leaders.
Machar said an agreement was also reached on the phased withdrawal of Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) which are fighting alongside government forces in South Sudan.
Uganda is seen a key ally of president Kiir and analysts say the withdrawal of the Uganda troops would place complete responsibility for the protection of key economic zones and the country’s vital installations on regional troops to provide.
The former vice-president turned rebel leader explained that the two leaders also recommitted to widening the participation of civil society organisations, political parties and faith-based groups in ongoing peace negotiations.
He further explained that the two parties and other South Sudanese stakeholders will negotiate the future style of governance in South Sudan and reach a peace agreement in which a transitional government will be formed.
Rebel forces are demanding a complete restructure of the state based on a peace agreement and a federal constitution, a move resisted by the government.
US special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth earlier stated that the ongoing IGAD-led mediation process offered the last best chance for peace in the world’s youngest nation.
“It is now time for true leaders to lead and for sustainable peace to take root and the rebirth of South Sudan,” he said.
Meanwhile, South Sudan’s Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) has welcomed the outcome of the 10 June meeting between the rival leaders.
“The commitment they did for 60 days is good and this demonstrates that they want to give peace a chance. Besides this move, CEPO is urging both leaders to ensure that the military fighting taking place in some parts of Upper Nile and Unity states is ended as it demonstrates bad practices and was making civilians feel that seriousness for giving peace a chance was low and doubtful,” CEPO’s executive director, Edmund Yakani, told Sudan Tribune from Botswana.
CEPO has also urged both leaders to ensure the principles contained in signed agreements are “honoured and respected”.
Meanwhile, Gad’s executive secretary, Mahboub Maalim, said the cost of South Sudan’s peace process, which is supported by European Union, the European troika countries, had reached $17 million.
The violence in South Sudan has displaced more than a million people and killed thousands in what is the country’s worst-ever conflict since gaining independence from Sudan in 2011.