By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 31, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – A pan-African youth organisation says South Sudan peace talks should focus on the interests of the people rather than those of the country’s warring leaders.
- South Sudan’s rebel leader, Riek Machar (R), and president Salva Kiir (L) join hands in prayer before signing an earlier peace agreement in the Ethiopian capita, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 (photo: Reuters)
Africa Speaks urged the parties to the conflict to prioritise national interests and the aspirations of South Sudanese people ahead of their immediate political ambitions.
“The long fight for freedom, justice, equality, prosperity, development, peace and tranquillity shouldn’t turn [into] chaos, misery and hopelessness,” the group said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
The statement commended ongoing efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is currently mediating negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in bringing all concerned parties to the table for discussions on a sustainable political settlement to the crisis, urging the east African bloc to work towards a long-term solution rather than a short-term fix.
“The peace talks are a prospect for South Sudanese to engage in peace and reconciliation to have a common understanding of nationhood, likewise this is a virtuous platform to have [a] long-lasting peace agreement framework” that would put South Sudan back on the road to peace and development.
The group also stressed that the root causes of the conflict must be addressed if a sustainable and lasting solution is to be found, adding that political strategies and peace efforts aimed at ending the more than eight-month-long conflict must be emblematic of the people’s wishes.
South Sudan’s political crisis has plunged the country into violence, claiming the lives of tens of thousands of people after a political dispute within the country’s ruling party (SPLM) sparked the conflict in mid-December last year.
The fighting has pitted government troops loyal to president Salva Kiir against rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar’s breakaway opposition group.
“All involved parties in this peace process have to strain to address the root cause of the problem and they have to embed the explications in to the peace framework agreement by consulting all parties, and especially the agreement should be people-centric,” the statement said.
Founded in April 2009, Africa Speaks, which is a member of ECOSOC United Nations, is a regionally based non-governmental and non-partisan organisation that recognises the need to support sustainable development through research, education and entrepreneurship among youth and disadvantaged women.
Based in the South African city of Pretoria, the group works to promote prosperity, good governance, fair resource distribution, free movement, infrastructure development and intra-trade across the African continent.
It also fights against poverty, corruption, instability, exploitation, oppression, xenophobia and racism.
The South Sudanese government and Machar’s rival SPLM in Opposition faction have signed a number of peace deals since peace negotiations got underway in January.
However, a lack of commitment from both sides to implement the agreements has pushed the young nation into a deep political and humanitarian crisis, which has forced more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes.
Earlier this week, IGAD issued both parties with a 45-day deadline to negotiate and reach an agreement on the formation of a transitional national government, warning it would take action against any party that fails to comply accordingly.
Meanwhile, talks between the two conflicting parties have been adjourned for three weeks and are due to resume on 13 September.