By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 4, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s warring parties on Monday resumed the next round of peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in a bid to end the almost eight-month-long conflict in the country.
- Negotiators at South Sudan peace talks in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa review a draft cessation of hostilities agreement on 13 January 2014 (Photo courtesy of Larco Lomayat)
The opening session saw the mediators, the United Nations and other partners mount pressure on two conflicting parties to agree on the establishment of a transitional government by the 10 August deadline.
The IGAD chief mediator of the talks, Seyoum Mesfin, urged the South Sudan government and rebel delegations to expediently reach durable political settlement, warning that any further delay was “intolerable”.
“Promises are not enough. We must truly deliver,” said Mesfin while delivering a speech at the reopening of talks.
“The region will not tolerate any delay,” he added.
Former Ethiopian foreign minister further warned of punitive measures from IGAD should the warring parties continue militarily confronting each other in defiance of the signed cessation of hostilities agreement.
“Any result to continue it will have serious consequences. Those that insist on continued fighting must be held accountable,” said IGAD’s chief mediator.
Thousands have been killed and over a million people displaced since violence erupted in South Sudan late last year. The conflict has also forced about 300,000 people in to neighbouring countries amid fears of looming famine from aid agencies operating in the country.
Lam Akol, who leads 18 political parties at the talks, urged the warring parties to respect the agreements signed, halt fighting and give peace a chance.
“The warring parties must understand that one of them will score a military victory. They must internalise the fact that negotiation is the only route to peace. We also appeal to intergovernmental Authority on Development and the United Nations mission in South Sudan to expedite the deployment of the protection Force to provide security for our helpless civil population,” said Akol.
Akol described as destructive the ongoing conflict in the country, saying it has brought shame to the country, its people and hence should be ended.
“When we say that this war is destructive we mean it. It has caused extreme destruction to innocent lives, destruction of properties and destruction of social fabric and untold damage to the image of South Sudan among nations,” he said.
The opposition leader said a county born with a lot of promise and euphoria three years ago now tops the fragile states of the world because its leaders had failed to manage political difference with caution.
“We should be ashamed of ourselves as South Sudan elites to be part by commission or omission of this destruction of a promise for which millions of our compatriots have selflessly sacrificed for decades. War must stop now and it is the duty and moral obligation of all of us in this all to stop the war by working out a sustainable peace agreement,” Akol told both delegations.
Deng Alor Kuol, the former cabinet affairs minister, who spoke on behalf of the former political detainees, said the continuous clashes between armed groups loyal to the two main rival leaders, were unnecessary.
“It should have never happened, in view of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the two warring parties and their re-commitment to live by their word,” said Kuol in statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
“We deeply deplore attempts to transform the conflict into a war for territorial gain and control by either of the two warring parties. The real challenge is not how much territory each side controls but rather what is the way forward for our country to come out from this crisis and avoid further loss of lives and total disintegration of the country,” he added.
Meanwhile, China’s envoy to Ethiopia and the African Union said the international community was losing patience over continuous delays in the talks, urging the parties to take political actions for peaceful end to conflict.
“The patience of the regional countries and the international community are being worn out because they haven’t seen real results, they see only the looming famine and the continued suffering of the people there,” said Xie Xiaoyan.
Civil society representatives and faith based leaders have also been included in the IGAD-mediated peace talks for the first time.