August 30, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The chief mediator mediating the peace talks between the two warring parties in South Sudan under the auspices of the African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), has insisted that SPLM In Opposition led by the former vice-president, Riek Machar, did in fact sign the matrix on ceasefire agreement despite dismissal by the rebels.
- Seyoum Mesfin (L), chairperson of IGAD mediators, and Taban Deng Gai, the SPLM in Opposition’s chief negotiator, attend the resumption of South Sudan talks in Addis Ababa on 11 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)
In a briefing to the press in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin said the two parties had on Sunday signed the matrix for implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement (CoHA) which they signed since 23 January 2014 and called on them to abide by it and implement it fully.
He said what the rebels were saying was not true, adding they were attempting to renege on the agreement.
“They signed it. Having signed the matrix, if they come days later and say they haven’t signed it, it is just a gimmick exercise,” he told reporters.
Mesfin warned of tough actions by IGAD against the rebel group should they not succumb to the document.
“I advise [the rebel camp]…to play critical role in the resolution of the crisis which has put the lives of millions of South Sudanese at risk. Any violations will be met by robust and decisive action by IGAD, which will take all measures in its power to prevent the humanitarian crisis from deepening,” he said.
The tough comments by the chief mediator, who is Ethiopia’s former minister of foreign affairs, comes days after rebels spokespersons, including the chief negotiator, Gen Taban Deng Gai, dismissed as false the claims by IGAD that they signed the matrix.
The SPLM in Opposition said they neither signed the draft agreement on transitional government of national unity nor signed the ceasefire matrix, explaining that the document they were served with and signed was simply the rededication to the existing cessation of hostilities agreement which did not attach the matrix.
IGAD PLAYS GAMES
The SPLM In Opposition has, however, lashed at the regional bloc trying to mediate the peace process, criticising the body for allegedly resorting to playing unhelpful games after failing to ensure the two parties addressed the root causes of the conflict.
“We have come to understand that IGAD mediation is failing to address the root causes of this conflict and to call spade a spade. They have unfortunately chosen to resort to cunning games as a short cut to a mock peace agreement, which cannot work,” said Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak.
Dak when reached by Sudan Tribune on Saturday further said the regional body attempted to lure the rebel group into signing a document which was not yet agreed, by hiding its content from them.
He further explained that IGAD mediation provided only last page of the draft agreement on transitional government to the opposition leader, Riek Machar, to sign it without showing him the text and when Machar insisted that he wanted to see the contents of the text first, they declined and Machar couldn’t sign it.
He also added that when the two chief negotiators Taban Deng Gai and Nhial Deng Nhial signed the document on rededication to the existing cessation of hostilities agreement there was no matrix attached to it because the rebels made it clear they would not sign it if the foreign troops and rebel groups allied to president Salva Kiir’s government were not withdrawn from South Sudan as stipulated in the agreement.
“Now how come the matrix popped up in the rededication document when it was not there during the signing?” Dak inquired.
IGAD WAR PRETEXT
The rebel leader’s spokesperson accused IGAD of introducing the recent behaviour as a pretext for war against the opposition faction, saying they had the plan to deploy troops to fight for president Kiir and wanted a pretext in order to go to war.
“We suspect that IGAD is failing in the mediation and may be tempted to go for regional war which they may mistakenly think is a cheaper mean to impose fake peace on the people of South Sudan,” he said, adding this will lose more lives and increase the suffering of the people.
Dak said the regional block should now put aside their own interests in the South Sudanese conflict and work for genuine peace that should address the root causes of the crisis.
Mesfin acknowledged that the rebels have grievances on the protocol on agreed principles on transitional arrangements toward resolution of the crisis in South Sudan endorsed by the IGAD leaders last Monday.
The rebels had already contested the method imposed by the mediators saying they should be the moderator not the driving force that takes decisions instead of the warring parties.
They further say that the peace process should first address the root causes of the conflict, and then come to define who will be president or vice-president.
“We said IGAD was trying to put the cart before the horse because the issue of who to lead the transitional government would come later as a by-product of a peace agreement between the parties,” Dak said.
The violence erupted on 15 December in Juba when political debates within the ruling SPLM party turned violent, with Kiir and Machar becoming leading rivals.
Ugandan troops (UPDF) were immediately deployed to help restore stability and protect president Kiir’s leadership from collapse.
Machar’s opposition group said they would not sign the ceasefire matrix unless all foreign forces allied to president Kiir’s government, including the UPDF were fully withdrawn from South Sudan’s soil.