August 11, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The South Sudanese former vice-president, Riek Machar who leads the armed opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-In-Opposition) has returned to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after talks with the Sudanese top leadership in Khartoum, a rebel official has said.
- SPLM-in-Opposition leader Riek Machar talks to the media after his meeting with president Omer al-Bashir on 10 August 2014 (ST)
The SPLM-In-Opposition leader’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, in a press release he issued on Monday evening seen by Sudan Tribune said the visit was “productive.”
“Chairman Dr Riek Machar Teny has returned to the venue of the peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday evening after two days visit to Khartoum. He had productive meetings with the Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and other senior officials of the government,” partly reads the statement.
“President Bashir pledged to continue to support the ongoing peace process in his capacity as a head of IGAD member state,” he added.
Dak added that the Sudanese president, who for 22 years ruled the whole Sudan before secession of South Sudan in July 2011, had more experience and role to play in resolving the crisis.
“President Bashir has a huge experience in the Sudanese conflicts which he can apply to help end the crisis in South Sudan,” he added.
Previously the rebel leader, Machar, in a separate interview with Sudan Tribune called on Sudan and Kenya to impose sanctions on the South Sudanese government, citing denying South Sudan access to oil pipelines and sea ports as an effective tool to end the war.
It was not clear whether or not the two leaders in Khartoum discussed the possible imposition of sanctions on South Sudan.
The rebel leader’s spokesperson added Machar also met with representatives of various South Sudanese civil society organisations residing in the Sudanese capital.
The official Sudan news agency (SUNA) on Sunday reported that Bashir reiterated his support to the efforts exerted by the IGAD to reach a peaceful settlement to the South Sudanese conflict and encouraged the warring parties to resort to dialogue.
Speaking about the slow-moving peace process, he acknowledged that talks are facing significant obstacles but stressed the two sides have agreed on the negotiations agenda.
Machar expected that talks between his faction and the government would go beyond the 60-day ultimatum set by mediators from the East African regional bloc (IGAD), underscoring keenness to resolve the contentious issues and achieve peace in South Sudan.
The rebel negotiating team earlier this month demanded to limit the direct talks to the warring parties saying the political parties including the SPLM-detained leaders and civil society groups would participate in a consultative manner particularly when it comes to the negotiations on formation of a transitional government of national unity.
IGAD on Monday announced it had agreed to the proposal by the rebels after the government joined the proposal on bilateral talks. Instead of all the other stakeholders to participate in the direct previously proposed multi-lateral talks, they would now be only participating in a consultative manner when deemed necessary by the two parties as well as participate in general plenary presentations.
REBELS DOWNPLAY VP POSITION
Dak in a separate interview downplayed the recent remarks by president Salva Kiir in which he pledged to create a second vice-president position for the rebel leader, Machar, should he lay down his arms and rejoin the government.
“Well, first of all to our leadership Salva Kiir is no longer a legitimate president. He in December last year in Juba started this unnecessary crisis in defense of his dictatorship. He also administered the cold blood massacres of thousands of innocent citizens who elected him into office,” the rebel leader’s spokesperson told Sudan Tribune by phone on Monday when asked to comment on the offer.
“The question of who will lead the transitional government or appoint officials to various capacities until elections are held shall be tackled in a peace agreement between us and the government. It is therefore premature to concentrate on positions,” he added.
Dak said what the rebels saw as priority and important was to address the root causes of the conflict and resolve it.
The SPLM-in-Opposition, he said, had proposed the restructuring of the state in a constitutional federal system and to introduce reforms in all the public sectors, adding that the question of who would be entrusted to lead the implementation of such reform programs would finally come as a byproduct of the peace agreement.
President Kiir in May vowed to defend his position as president and those of the lawmakers during his address to the national parliament, arguing that they were elected by the people.