August 7, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-In-Opposition) led by Riek Machar has refuted “assertion” by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that the group has backtracked from their commitment to the inclusive stakeholders peace process, saying this was a mere “misrepresentation”.
- Mabior John Garang de Mabior (File photo MC Clatchy Newspapers)
In a press release on 5 August, IGAD mediators announced that the SPLM/SPLA in opposition failed to attend the peace talks for South Sudan on the 5th of August 2014 and called on them to return to the negotiation table.
The announcement came when the rebel group’s delegation, which participated in the opening of the fifth session of the talks on Monday, refused to attend the Tuesday roundtable negotiations which directly included all the other stakeholders.
They reminded the mediation that the direct talks would be between their delegation and the government with the other stakeholders to participate only in a consultative manner.
In a press statement by the rebels’ information and public relations chairperson Mabior Garang de Mabior released on Wednesday, the opposition group reiterated their position for direct bilateral negotiations with the government.
Mabior said the claims in the press release issued by IGAD on Tuesday did not represent their position.
“The press release claims that the SPLM/SPLA (in opposition) had committed itself to a multi-stakeholders’ roundtable; this statement is a misrepresentation of the position of the SPLM/SPLA on the participation of other stakeholders,” said Mabior.
“We, therefore, want to set the record straight by stating that the SPLM/SPLA has been calling for direct negotiation with the Government while the SPLM Leaders (Former Detainees) Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations and Faith-based Groups can participate in a consultative manner. Our commitment to resolve the conflict peacefully remains strong,” he further said.
GOVERNMENT WANTS DIRECT TALKS
Mabior also revealed that president Salva Kiir’s government has agreed for direct talks with the SPLM in opposition and that the face-to-face direct negotiations had already begun between the two warring parties without the other stakeholders.
He said government delegation on Wednesday, 6th August wrote to the IGAD mediation team accepting the proposal by the rebels for direct bilateral talks.
“With the government delegation expressing the same position to the IGAD Mediation in their letter, dated 6th August 2014, to the Chief Mediator copied to the SPLM/SPLA Chief Negotiator that they are willing to engage in bilateral talks, we believe that the SPLM/SPLA is moving on the right tract and the current crisis will be peacefully resolved,” he revealed.
He criticised IGAD for misrepresenting the rebels position, saying the opposition faction had already been engaged with the government on direct bilateral talks without the other stakeholders.
“As we write this press release, the SPLM/SPLA is engaged with the Government of the Republic of South Sudan through [the] security and humanitarian sub-committee to finalise modalities of implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement since the opening of the Phase II session 5,” he said.
“We, therefore, call on the people of South Sudan, IGAD member states and international partners to pressure the IGAD mediators to allow the direct negotiations between the warring parties to peacefully resolve the crisis without further delays,” he added.
The opposition faction leader, Riek Machar, last month criticized IGAD mediation team of trying to impose their own will on the two negotiating parties instead of playing their role of mediation.
In a separate interview, a rebels spokesperson also said the recent remarks against the opposition leader by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, were based on misinformation.
Kerry during his meeting with president Salva Kiir in Washington DC this week accused Machar’s group of alleged violations, warning of pending impatience against the group.
However, Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said they were not responsible for the violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement.
“It is the government that has been violating the 23 January cessation of hostilities agreement from day one. The army chief of general staff, Gen Paul Malong Awan, himself arrogantly admitted this in a press conference in Juba last month. Kerry might have been misinformed,” Dak told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
He also wondered why the US secretary of state was “not interested to condemn the massacres of thousands of members of Nuer ethnic group in Juba by Kiir’s presidential guards in December last year”.