July 19, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudanese government on Sunday expressed optimism at overcoming difficulties in indirect peace negotiations with the leadership of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by former vice president, Riek Machar, in ending the 19-month long civil war in the country. The opposition expressed reservations.
Senior members of the South Sudan’s governing SPLM party on Sunday said significant progress had been made in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in the ongoing indirect talks between members of former detainees, currently representing the government, and officials of the rebel movement, without involvement of the mediation of the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“There is a significant progress in the talks and there is a hope peace will come to the country at the end of these engagements at individual levels between and among South Sudanese themselves,” Daniel Awet Akot, a senior member of the SPLM and former deputy speaker of the national parliament told Sudan Tribune during an exclusive interview on Sunday.
Akot said the indirect talks between the government and the leadership of the armed opposition spearheaded by the former cabinet affairs minister, Deng Alor Kuol, have been sanctioned by the leadership of the ruling SPLM at the level of political bureau and national liberation council to end the war.
“The leadership is committed to see into that this conflict comes to an end. It is the wish of the SPLM leadership at the level of political bureau and the national liberation council that peace comes to the country after these engagements. Our people want peace and the SPLM wants peace,” he said.
The senior party member revealed to Sudan Tribune that all the issues which had been preventing the signing of a final peace agreement had been discussed thoroughly and that participants were getting the rationale of the points which were being raised by each of the two sides in the negotiations.
“The current engagements have taken the spirit we had in Arusha which led to the signing of the reunification of the SPLM. They are being held in an open and transparent environment. They are held in an environment in which each and every representative shows an interest which puts the supremacy of South Sudan over and above each and every interest of any one in the engagement, which is the spirit we had in Arusha,” Akot added.
Presidential advisor on intergovernmental linkage and decentralization affairs, Tor Deng Mawien, also told Sudan Tribune in a separate interview on Sunday that he hoped peace would come to the country soon.
“There is no reason for peace not to come to the country. The government is ready and it has made it a principle to end this war through peaceful dialogue. The president himself had attended the talks several times. This is indication that the government wants this conflict to be brought to an end through peaceful dialogue. The rebels should reciprocate if they are also [for] peace,” Mawien said on Sunday.
The top presidential aide expressed optimism of the peace coming to the country before the end of the year, stressing the peace process being led by the intergovernmental authority on development should extend support to the current indirect engagements between officials of the rival warring parties.
“IGAD should support the current engagements between and among South Sudanese. IGAD came in because there was no one ready to do these kinds of engagements. They should now come with the support. People need peace. War has done so much harm to the people and the country,” a close ally to president Kiir said.
The officials however made no references to specific outstanding issues which have now been agreed upon and when the peace agreement would be signed, but expressed optimism peace could be signed before the end of the year.
SPLM-IO EXPRESSES RESERVATIONS
The armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) led by former vice president, Riek Machar, also welcomed the indirect engagement between the two warring parties but expressed reservations over what they said was lack of seriousness by officials of the government to keep to the spirit of negotiations in good faith and to hold to their words.
“Well, our leadership welcomes such indirect and informal engagements with representatives of the government. Nevertheless, there is a serious concern about contradictions within the government. One says this and another says completely different things when it comes to the contentious matters in the peace negotiations. They should be negotiating in good faith and hold to their words,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune when contacted on Sunday.
Dak said senior government officials have been going public with different comments, raising doubts whether the regime could be trusted.
“You know, former detainee Comrade Deng Alor and some of his colleagues, including the reinstated SPLM secretary general, Comrade Pagan Amum, briefed our leadership in Nairobi three weeks ago. They told us, for example, that Salva Kiir agreed on the IGAD Plus executive power-sharing proposal which gives a new position of first vice- president to our movement during a transitional period. They also said Kiir equally agreed on the idea of two separate armies at least for 18 months of the would-be transitional period,” Dak said.
“But see what president Kiir said thereafter, denying almost everything, except for the reinstating position of the party. And look at the comments uttered on Friday by the vice president, Comrade James Wani Igga, totally rejecting the proposal on the top executive power-sharing. I believe the government has been applying this delaying tactic of sending one to us to agree on matters which the rest of the leadership would later on disown.”
He said the rebel faction was committed to the peace process to “swiftly” end the war, despite now dealing with an “illusive” and “illegitimate peace partner” who could not be easily trusted.
He however said the armed opposition faction maintained its call on president Kiir to step aside after expiry of his term of office and for the international community to declare his government illegitimate, saying only a peace agreement would legitimize a transitional government of national unity.
Direct peace negotiations that will involve the two principal leaders, Kiir and Machar, are expected to resume in mid-August under the mediation of IGAD Plus, which will involve countries and bodies beyond the African continent.