South Sudan: IGAD Pushes for Kiir, Machar Meeting

President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar.

The regional body that negotiated the South Sudan peace agreement is now lobbying for a face-to-face meeting between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar to build confidence.

The Intergovernmental Authority for Development noted that lack of meetings between the two leaders has been cited as one of the challenges impeding the implementation of the peace agreement.

David Shearer, head of UN in South Sudan, said lack of face-to-face meeting between the two leaders is one of the unresolved issues, even though the peace agreement has had reduced fighting over the past four months.

President Kiir has been insisting that Dr Machar go to Juba for consultation since the peace agreement has been signed and there is no need for him to continue staying outside the country.

In early July, the government invited Dr Machar to Juba for consultations, but the SPLM-IO demanded that he first be released from the house confinement in Khartoum and be allowed to bring in his external security detail from Sudan.

Dr Machar went to Addis Ababa on July 21 and met with Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations on preventing sexual violence in conflict.

The war-related sexual offences have been a concern for the UN. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) cited 238 incidents of war-related sexual violence that involved 1,291 victims.

In a report released in March, UNMISS attributed 92 cases to the SPLM-IO wing led by first vice-president Taban Deng and 84 to Dr Machar's wing.

Following the September 2018 revitalised peace agreement, the signatories were supposed to form a transitional government on May 12 after eight months pre-transition period but later agreed to postpone it for six months because some of the pre-requisites had not been met.

Among the challenges is lack of funds for cantonment, training and the unification of the armed forces. However on July 21, the South Sudan Joint Defence Board ordered all government troops and rebel forces to assemble at the nearest cantonment sites or barracks as soon as possible. The process is supposed to be completed by July 31.

There are more than 20 cantonment sites across the country, but both sides have been reluctant to be confined in the sites for fear of ambush, even though the all-out war has significantly reduced since the signing of the revitalised peace agreement in September 2018.

However, on July 23, fresh fighting erupted at Lobonok and Karpeto near Juba between government troops and those of the National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Gen Thomas Cirillo.

Gen Cirillo had refused to be part of the agreement on grounds that it did not address the root cause of the war and left out federalism.

However, there is progress since the National Constitutional Amendment Committee has completed the review and drafted amendments of other security sector laws.

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