August 25, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA/JUBA) – The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has given South Sudan’s warring parties 45 days to reach an agreement on the formation of a transitional government of national unity.
- Rebel leader Riek Machar (C) flanked by Gabriel Changson Chang, his aide for finance and resource mobilisation (L), and chief negotiator General Taban Deng Gai (front) at 27th extraordinary summit of IGAD heads of state and government in Addis Ababa on 24 August 2014 (Photo: AFP/Zacharias Abubeker)
Despite regional and international pressure the two warring parties have so far failed to approve a regional plan prepared by IGAD mediators to end the more than eight-month-long conflict because it prevents their leaders from running for presidency after a two-year transitional period where they supposed to co-govern the country.
Nhial Deng Nihial and Taban Deng Gai, the chief negotiators for the government and rebel sides respectively, signed a roadmap agreement covering security arrangements, with both parties committing to follow up with further talks over outstanding issues and the formation of the transitional government.
At its 27th extraordinary summit on Monday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the regional bloc also approved the protocol on the agreed principles on transitional arrangements to end the ongoing conflict.
“The summit calls on the stakeholders to conclude, within six weeks, negotiation of the details necessary to fully operationalise the agreed principles on the transitional arrangements towards resolution of the crisis in South Sudan,” partly reads the IGAD communiqué.
It further urged the rebel SPLM/A in Opposition faction to immediately sign the protocol, which will lead to a new negotiated political dispensation in South Sudan.
“The summit endorses the protocol on agreed principles on transitional arrangements toward resolution of the crisis in South Sudan, which will lead to a new negotiated dispensation in South Sudan and calls on the SPLM-IO to sign the protocol,” the communique adds.
NEED TO ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES
The opposition group, led by former vice-president Riek Machar, said it is committed to the peace process and to reaching a negotiated political solution which should first address the root causes of the conflict.
“We are committed to the peace process. This is the reason our chairman Dr Riek Machar has been at the venue of the peace talks since May,” the rebel leader’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said on Monday.
He said merely bringing Machar and president Salva Kiir back together under the same leadership would not address the fundamental issues that led to the conflict.
Expressing “disappointment” at the parties’ failure to form a transitional government within the initial 60-day timeframe, IGAD has warned it is prepared to take action should either side fail to honour their commitments to the latest resolutions.
It further warned that any party which attempts to obstruct the process will be held accountable and denied participation in future governance arrangements for South Sudan.
It called on the parties to empower their representatives to proceed without further delay, saying the mediation should continue regardless of whether any stakeholder opt to boycott the negotiations.
Conflict has raged in South Sudan since mid-December last year when a political dispute with South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) turned violent, reigniting tribal tensions across the country.
The fighting has pitted government troops loyal to Kiir against pro-Machar rebels, comprising largely of dissident soldiers and ethnic militia.
PEACE DEALS FAIL
Violence has continued to flare across the country despite a number of peace deals signed between the two rival SPLM factions aimed at ending the crises in South Sudan.
Both sides have been accused of lacking commitment to implement ceasefire arrangements brokered by IGAD, plunging the young nation further into political and humanitarian turmoil.
Tens of thousands have been killed since the conflict erupted, with more than 1.5 million people displaced from their homes.
In his opening speech on Monday, IGAD chair and Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn urged both parties to “embody and safeguard the interests and aspirations of the people of South Sudan”.
The Ethiopian premier accused the two parties of deliberately violating a cessation of hostilities agreement signed in January and hindering the IGAD-led peace process from achieving a sustainable political settlement to the crisis.
While expressing his concern over the calamitous humanitarian situation in South Sudan, Desalegn urged the two rival sides not to waste any more time, calling on them to serve the best interests of the South Sudanese people.
He said the primary responsibility to avert the war and end the suffering of the people rested on the shoulders of the warring parties, warning that those who did not comply with the agreements would bear the consequences.