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Uganda urges Kiir to sign peace agreement despite Museveni pull out

August 18, 2015 (JUBA) - The government of president Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, a close military and political ally of president Salva Kiir, has unexpectedly urged South Sudanese leaders to the conflict to forgo their personal ambitions and interests and sign the peace deal in order to return the country to peace and stability.

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President of Uganda, Youweri Musevenni (Reuters)

This came a day after president Museveni stormed out from the venue of the talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday due to clashes with other regional leaders and left for his country before the rebel leader could sign his part of the agreement.

Ugandan government’s spokesman however later on urged South Sudanese leaders who have not yet signed the agreement to do so, saying it had experience in how to bring down “egos” of individuals without a specific reference.

“The Ugandan government knows how strenuous it is to achieve peace between belligerents, especially when the belligerents have big egos and when those belligerents put their personal egos above national interests," Ugandan government’s spokesman, Shaban Bantariza, said in Kampala in an indirect reference to non-signatories.

Bantariza, according to Reuters news agency, said his government would continue to mediate the differences between the rival parties or push for others to sign it with a view to help them realize the supremacy of the country.

"We can only continue to mediate, to encourage every side to realize that their country is superior to every one of them individually,” he said.

Observers however hinted that the change of language by the regional power despite boycotting the signing ceremony on Monday could result from pressure exerted on Kampala by the international community to reign on his ally president Kiir and convince him to sign the peace agreement.

MUSEVENI CLASHED WITH IGAD CHAIRMAN

The Turkish news agency Anadolu attributed the departure of president Museveni from the venue of peace talks on Monday to exchange of words between the Ugandan leader and the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Haile Mariam Desalegn which probably resulted to the decision by president Museveni to leave Addis Ababa while the final peace agreement was being worked out by the two parties and the IGAD Plus mediation.

The Ethiopian premier and chairman of the regional body, IGAD, reportedly told president Museveni that Uganda’s support to president Kiir was complicating their efforts to persuade the South Sudanese president to sign the peace agreement, a comment that angered the Ugandan leader and stormed out to the airport and returned to his country.

“If I am your problem then I will leave,” Museveni reportedly told the Ethiopian leader before leaving the room and going to the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.

President Kiir afterwards also said he would not sign the agreement despite optimism from even the rebel leader, Riek Machar that earlier signs indicated that both top rival leaders were going to sign the deal per earlier interaction between the two during the day.

After signing the agreement, rebel chief, Machar, revealed to reporters that he did not expect that president Kiir would change his mind at the last minute.

“We had hoped president Kiir was going to sign. I didn’t know he wasn’t going to sign because when I came to the room I met him here and greeted him before we sign but then after 10 minutes I was told he [president Kiir] wasn’t signing” he told reporters in a press conference he later held on Monday evening in Addis Ababa.

However, South Sudanese government’s spokesperson and member of the negotiating team told journalists in a separate interview on Tuesday that his government rejected the internationally backed regional brokered peace deal because “it is a sellout deal” that did not serve the interest of the people.

"We strongly believe that such a peace cannot serve the people of South Sudan. It is a sell-out and we will not accept that," President Kiir’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, told reporters on Tuesday.

The government had earlier expressed its readiness to sign the draft peace proposal, hoping it was going to be based on a revised version worked out in Kampala.

POLITICAL PARTIES SUPPORT DEAL

Lam Akol, chairman of the opposition SPLM-DC and leader of the alliance of major political parties outside the government, said he and his group welcomed the peace deal signed in Addis Ababa despite few reservations, including the power sharing.

The reservations, he said, should not stop the parties from accepting and implementing the deal in order to move the country forward. He argued South Sudanese to be vigilant and frustrate plans of the country’s leadership looking for an opportunity to derail it.

Peter Mayen Majongdit, leader of the People’s Liberal Party (PLP), also welcomed the deal and, describing it as a major milestone towards lasting peace in the country.

“We welcome the agreement reached and we congratulate the signatories, the SPLM-IO, FD, and all the mediators for having reached this important step,” he said.

He however said president Salva Kiir’s position to have an inclusive consultation with the rest of his government is essential, adding that there was need to know who are against peace in the country.

“We need to know who is against peace here, now that the SPLM-IO and FD have made their stand clear, the people’s eyes are now on the government,” he added.

The opposition leader expressed hope that the government will eventually sign the agreement.

(ST)