October 28, 2016 (JUBA) - leaders of Ethiopia and South Sudan have signed a series of cooperation agreements on Friday, including a security arrangement to stop hosting armed opposition groups in their respective countries.
The deal per a communiqué signed at the presidential palace in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, on Friday between President Salva Kiir and his visiting Ethiopian premier, Hailemariam Desalegn, calls on Ethiopia not to support armed groups, probably targeting members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) under the leadership of the controversially ousted former First Vice President, Riek Machar.
Ethiopia hosted and led the mediation of the the peace process between Kiir and Machar which was signed in August last year to end 21 months of civil war, but which implementation has been disrupted by the recent renewal of violent conflict between the two factions in July in Juba, resuming the war.
In his statement, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has reiterated the commitment of his administration and the people of his country to help in the implementation of the peace agreement, saying he would want to see a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan.
“We are very keen to see South Sudan be a peaceful country and a prosperous country... because we believe that the South Sudanese people have suffered enough for half a century and peace should prevail in South Sudan,” Prime Minister Desalegn said.
“We will not support an armed struggling group or anyone who opts for path of war and therefore we will not allow any armed movement which is detracting from peace in our region both in Ethiopia and South Sudan and will cooperate in a strong army-to-army cooperation where the president has agreed to send his chief of staff quickly to Addis Ababa and they will agree on the common cooperation of making our borders and also inland secure,” he said, while speaking to the media in Juba alongside South Sudanese President Kiir.
During the one day visit to Juba, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Deselagn, also addressed the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and reiterated his country’s support to peace in South Sudan in addition to a few economic and infrastructural agreements the two nations want to jointly implement.
Other agreements signed include five roads construction project - with Ethiopia funding two highways through a loan to South Sudan. Oil agreement and trading was another area of agreements signed by respective ministers of both countries.
President Kiir on his part said he was happy with the agreement with Ethiopia on security and development projects, saying he was hoping to see change coming.
"We will be vigilant always to review all the agreements for the benefit of the two countries and we are hopeful that things will change," said Kiir.
The agreement would deny hosting or support of Machar and his faction, implying that the Ethiopian government would recognize the current setup in Juba after the 8 July violence which kicked out Machar from the capital.
SPLM-IO DOWNPLAYS DEAL
Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak, said the SPLM-IO and its army, the SPLA-IO, are both intact inside South Sudan and will use all means necessary, including peaceful dialogue and revival of the peace deal and the right to self-defence through popular armed resistance, to save the country from the “failed anti-peace regime” of President Kiir.
He further dismissed claims that their armed opposition and its leadership has been isolated in the region, saying what is happening is a temporary misunderstanding by some leaders which will be sorted out in time through engagement.
Some IGAD leaders who have not yet met Machar after he escaped the assassination in Juba, he said, may still want to hear from him in a face-to-face engagement before they could have a better picture of the situation.
Dak, said there seemed to be misunderstanding among some leaders of IGAD, saying some of them were reneging on their communiqué of last August which called for reinstatement of Machar as First Vice President and the implementation of the agreement once a regional force is deployed.
However, he said Machar will be consulting with such leaders in order to clear the air by telling his side of the story of what transpired in Juba and to undo the “lies” told by the regime in Juba.