11 February 2014

South Sudan: Mediator Says SPLM Leaders in Kenya Will Fly to Ethiopia for Talks

Addis Ababa — The 7 political leaders released from the South Sudanese capital, Juba, but further detained in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, will fly to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, by Tuesday in order to join the peace talks, announced IGAD chief mediator on Monday.

"The seven detainees are expected to arrive in Addis Ababa either today or latest tomorrow morning," said the former Ethiopian foreign minister and chief mediator for the IGAD-sponsored peace talks, Seyoum Mesfin, in a press conference held in the Ethiopian capital on Monday.

Ambassador Seyoum further called on Juba to release those who are still in detention in Juba saying "we commend the Republic of South Sudan for releasing the 7 detainees & call on them to expedite the status of the remaining ones".

Rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army In Opposition (SPLM/A In Opposition) on Monday boycotted the resumption of the talks, citing the non-implementation of the agreements previously signed, including Kenya's refusal to allow the 7 leaders to travel to Addis.

They further demanded the release of the other 4 political detainees per the Addis Ababa agreement signed on 23 January between the two parties on the fate of the politicians.

The rebels also said the withdrawal of the Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF) was another prerequisite agreed upon before the second round of the talks could resume, calling on the UPDF to withdraw in honour of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement.

The chief mediator however did not shed light on whether the UPDF forces will withdraw from South Sudan in implementation of the agreement he mediated between the government and the rebels.

But Seyoum told reporters that the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Team (MVT) has visited the capital of Upper Nile state Malakal on Sunday to assess the military situation and see where to establish the monitoring posts.

In New York, the spokesperson for UN secretary-general, Martin Nesirky, said that the UN Mission in South Sudan facilitated the travel of the IGAD assessment team to Malakal, adding they also transported the MVT to the capital of Jonglei state on Monday.

Regarding the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement, Nesirky said the situation was "volatile" UNMISS.

UNMISS "has received reports of fighting between the Sudan People's Liberation Army and anti-government forces in Thorgwang in Manyo County," he said, adding that in Bor "some government officials have begun returning to the town, as have civilians, but in limited numbers".

Attempting to reassure reporters about the possible rebels' boycott of second poltical round of talks Mesfin watered down the content of their press release saying " it does not reflect the current reality we have with SPLM/A (in opposition)".

However key rebel officials in Addis Ababa refused to comment on what the statements of the chief mediator but stressed they are "still have a wait-and-see attitude."

On Sunday the ex-vice president, Riek Machar, now the rebel leader, questioned the neutrality of the Kenyan president by further detaining the released 7 leaders, wondering whether president Uhuru Kenyatta and South Sudanese president Salva Kiir had a secret agreement attached to the release of the detainees.

The rebels have already expressed doubts in the past weeks about the IGAD aptitude to broker the peace process when they refused any Ugandan role in the talks pointing to the Ugandan troops that are fighting them besides the government forces.

UN spokesperson on Monday said there are still some 75,000 civilians under the protection of UNMISS forces in its sites across the country.

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