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South Sudan’s Kiir to sign peace agreement on Wednesday

August 25, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, will sign the final peace agreement on Wednesday to end the 20-month long civil war against his former deputy, Riek Machar, IGAD has announced.

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South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir, seen in Addis Ababa on January 29, 2015 (Photo AFP Zacharias Abubeker)

This sudden change of mind came 7 days after the South Sudanese leader refused to sign the final peace agreement on 17 August, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, citing disagreement with many critical provisions in the peace deal. His arch rival and leader of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), Machar, signed the final document.

Representative of the former detainees, Pagan Amum, who was recently reinstated in the president Kiir’s government as secretary-general of the ruling SPLM party also signed the deal, as well as civil society organizations and representatives of the regional and international bodies and countries.

At the time, President Kiir asked for 15 days to make further consultations back in Juba with his political and military officials in the government. While making the consultations, the government also organized anti-peace rallies across the country, criticizing the peace agreement as a “sell out.”

The United Nations gave president Kiir until the end of this week to make up his mind or face a wide range of targeted sanctions including arms embargo on his government. Front-line states including Uganda and Kenya were reportedly supposed to be the sole implementer of the would-be sanctions against Juba.

However, the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), on Tuesday announced in a press statement that president Kiir had agreed to sign the peace agreement and called on IGAD Plus member states to travel to Juba and witness the signing ceremony on Wednesday.

“The IGAD Secretariat presents its compliments to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of its Member States and the honour to inform the latter that as per the information received today from the Office of H.E., the President of the Republic of Kenya, through the Office of H.E., the Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, will be signed tomorrow, 26th August, 2015, in Juba, South Sudan,” partly reads the statement.

“The Secretariat of IGAD wishes to take this opportunity to request all IGAD Plus Members to send their respective delegation to Juba to witness and attend this long-awaited historic moment,” it said.

The announcement is contrary to the statement made by president Kiir’s press secretary, Ateny Wek Ateny, who told reporters on Tuesday that Kiir will travel to Addis Ababa on Monday next week to sign the peace deal in the Ethiopian capital.

WHY IN JUBA

Sources close to the decision making process said president Kiir expressed fear of indifference with top army generals, particularly his army’s chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan, who were opposed to the peace agreement.

There are fears in Juba that the army may sabotage the peace process including making a decision to take over the leadership in the absence of president Kiir from the national capital.

“There is currently a serious possible split between army chief Paul Malong Awan and the president over the peace agreement. There are fears that things may fall apart any time in the capital,” a reliable military source who spoke on condition of anonymity told Sudan Tribune on phone from Juba on Tuesday.

He said the president requested IGAD to allow him to sign the agreement in Juba instead of in Addis Ababa so that he could be able to monitor the situation at home.

He also revealed that president Yoweri Museveni of Uganda advised president Kiir to sign the peace deal, despite reservations, in order to avoid the looming United Nations sanctions against the government.

REBELS COMPLAIN

The opposition faction led by Machar welcomed the decision of president Kiir to sign the peace agreement, but added that signing it in Juba instead of at the venue of the peace talks in Addis Ababa indicated lack of seriousness on the part of the government.

“Whatever circumstances that have allegedly transpired in Juba and forced President Salva Kiir not to travel to Addis Ababa to sign the peace agreement at the venue of the peace talks indicate lack of seriousness and commitment to peace on the part of the government,” said James Gatdet Dak, spokesman of the rebel leader.

He however said it will be the same hard copy document inked by the rebel leader on 17 August and previously initialed by president Kiir in Addis Ababa that will be signed without “changing even a coma” in it.

He also said Machar will not travel to Juba, but the signing ceremony will be witnessed by representatives of IGAD Plus and other regional and international bodies.

(ST)