May 14, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A-In-Opposition) led by the former vice president Riek Machar is preparing its positions to be submitted to the regional mediation, a rebels spokesperson has revealed.
“On our side, the leadership has already formed 9 working committees to work out our positions based on a democratic federal presidential system of governance and to facilitate the work of our negotiations delegation,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune when contacted on Wednesday.
Dak further explained that the 9 committees shall work out their positions on issues of federal system of governance, legislature, judicial and legal reform, security sector reform, economy, constitution, public services reform, national reconciliation and healing as well as census and elections, among others.
Since the start of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) brokered talks to end the South Sudanese conflict, the rebels have demanded the restructure of the state on the basis of a new peace agreement and a federal constitution.
On 9 May, president Kiir and rebel leader Machar signed a roadmap agreement in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, which shall guide further negotiations between their delegations.
Dak went to say that the government delegation is not willing to espouse the spirit of reforms, but only react to the positions submitted by the opposition group.
“The regime’s delegation seems to be comfortable with the status quo in the country and would not want to volunteer in initiating a better system of governance in order to change the situation. They tell us we are the aggrieved party and they would therefore only respond to our submitted positions,” Dak further explained.
The working out of positions by the rebel group, he said, was “inclusive and participatory” as individuals or SPLM chapters in the Diaspora that pay their allegiance to the SPLM/A (in opposition) were also asked to deliberate on these issues and send in their contributions to the secretariat in Addis Ababa.
He added that after the opposition group will submit its positions to IGAD in the next few days, talks may adjourn until the government delegation has prepared its responses.
On the recent statement by president Salva Kiir postponing the upcoming elections from 2015 to 2018, Dak said the opposition group “believes that a timeframe for conduct of elections and who to oversee it would only be agreed upon during the negotiations between the two warring parties with involvement of other South Sudanese stakeholders”.
It is “not a prerogative of one side to decide it singlehandedly”, he said.
Earlier after his return to Juba from Addis Ababa, president Kiir announced that the 2015 elections will be delayed until 2017 or 2018 in order to give ample time to implement the outcome of the ongoing peace talks with the rebels.
Fighting erupted in mid-December in the national capital, Juba, and spread to other states when president Kiir allegedly ordered the commander of the presidential guards unit to disarm, among the guards, soldiers belonging to Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
The president accused his former deputy of allegedly planning a coup as heated debates within the ruling SPLM party between Kiir’s group and Machar’s reformists were ongoing.
Machar dismissed the allegations of attempted coup and counter-accused the president of orchestrating the violence using the false coup attempt in order to get rid of the reformists who challenged his “dictatorial tendencies.”
He also accused the president of overseeing the massacre of over 10,000 members of the Nuer ethnic group which was the first ethnically targeted killings that later on spread in revenge killings in other states.
The United Nations has estimated tens of thousands of people lost their lives and over a million more displaced as a result of the violence.
The two sides have engaged in the peace talks in Addis Ababa for the last four months to try and resolve the conflict.