26 November 2017

South Sudan Peace Talks Pushed to 2018, Before Polls

Photo: Albert González Farran/IRIN
South Sudan soldiers (file photo).

Implementation of the three-pronged approach to restore peace in South Sudan before the 2018 scheduled elections has been pushed to early next year. However, informal consultations continue.

One of the things to be implemented is the revitalisation programme of the August 2015 agreement by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), which finalised consultations with stakeholders from Addis Ababa, Pretoria, Khartoum, and Juba.

The consultations, which were conducted by the Igad Council of Ministers -- led by Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu -- ended on November 22 in Addis Ababa. The council presented a report to partners in the peace process from Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa and the main funders Troika.

The revitalisation programme, formed in June, seeks to review the progress of implementation and identify problem areas, such as incorporating of all the disgruntled groups that were not part of the agreement.

The South Sudan Special Representative to the African Union, James Morgan told The EastAfrican that the government has formed a special committee to deal with the revitalisation programme.

Mr Morgan pointed to the recent release of former chief of general staff, Gen Paul Malong, from house arrest as part of the concessions by President Salva Kiir.

Those who were consulted are South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar, former agriculture minister Lam Akol, former secretary-general of the ruling party Pagan Amum and former deputy army chief for logistics chief-turned rebel leader Gen Thomas Cirillo.

Outcomes

Brazille Musumba, the Igad communications and media advisor, said the Special Envoy's Taskforce will now assess the outcomes and recommendations of the consultation meetings and then announce the date of the High Level Revitalisation Forum to be convened early next year. However, the venue is yet to be set.

There have been concerns that the decision by Igad to exclude Dr Machar from physically participating in the forum -- other than through representatives -- could dampen its importance because he still commands the biggest armed group out of government.

Mabior Garang de Mabior, the rebels' director for information and publicity told The EastAfrican that as long as Igad isolates Dr Machar, little is likely to change in regard to silencing of the guns. Dr Machar has been under house arrest in South Africa since December 2016, after President Kiir lobbied the region to isolate him.

The second approach to restoring peace involves the re-unification of the three factions of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) led by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni.

He has held several meetings in Uganda in an attempt to unite the three factions of SPLM-In-Government, SPLM-In-Opposition led by Dr Machar and FPLM-former detainees led by Pagan Amum.

Last week, the reunification process was boosted when Egypt's president Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, oversaw the signing of Declaration of Unification of SPLM factions in Cairo.

The parties also agreed that the Egyptian General Intelligence Service would co-ordinate with the signatory parties and follow up on the implementation of the agreement.

The idea of re-unification started with the Arusha Agreement of January 2015, in which Tanzania's Chama Cha Mapinduzi and South Africa's African National Congress sought to bring together the three factions, which were formed because of political differences within SPLM.

The third and the most challenging process involves the National Dialogue launched by President Kiir in December last year and which is meant to achieve a permanent ceasefire.

The National Dialogue is a broad-based process that envisions wider participation by citizens to address different problems and grievances. However, the challenge is that it was unilaterally initiated by President Kiir without any confidence-building process with his chief rivals.

Many of his rivals led by Dr Machar, have dismissed the National Dialogue as an effort to divert the world's attention from the collapsed implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.

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