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UK, Norway plan Doha meeting to restore Sudan Sudan peace talks

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President Salva Kiir (centre) and his nemesis Dr Riek Machar (left) continue to trade blame for who is responsible for the collapse of the agreement and the escalating inter-ethnic fighting. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

By FRED OLUOCH

Posted  Tuesday, January 10   2017 at  16:44

In Summary

  • Igad will only be an observer in Qatar where a deal to review the peace agreement is top on the agenda.
  • The EastAfrican has learnt that the main agenda is to bring back rebel leader Riek Machar as a key partner in the peace talks.
  • Kiir and Machar sides concur that the Aug 15 peace pact has broken down and needs renegotiation.

Two key sponsors of the South Sudan peace process are organising roundtable talks next month in Doha, Qatar, between the government, the rebel movement and other stakeholders to review the August 2015 Peace Agreement.

The talks being organised by two Troika members — United Kingdom and Norway, who have been the main funders of the peace talks together with the United States since the war broke out in December 2013 — are expected to begin in early February to look at the Peace Agreement and challenges facing its implementation. 

The EastAfrican has learnt that the main agenda is to bring back rebel leader Riek Machar as a key partner in the peace talks.

The new efforts were initiated by the UK and Norway in conjunction with the African Union. The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), which mediated the peace agreement, will be represented as an observer, but will not be an active participant.

This is because key Igad partner states such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, with the support of the US government, have actively participated in sidelining Dr Riek Machar after intensive lobbying by President Salva Kiir’s government. But the Troika feels that this has not improved security in South Sudan.

President Kiir’s government had declared that Dr Machar, who was replaced as first vice-president by Taban Deng Gai in August last year and is currently living in South Africa, should stay out of South Sudan and await the next elections, which is supposed to be held in 2018.

Mr Gai recently confirmed that regional countries have denied Dr Machar entry in their territories and he will be locked out for a foreseeable future.

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The new initiative comes after both the government and the rebels concurred that the August 15 peace agreement had broken down – when war broke out again last July – and needs renegotiation.

But on December 14, President Kiir came up with the idea of a National Dialogue that will start at the grassroot. The rebel movement is sceptical about its success, especially without a permanent ceasefire.

Jimmy Deng, the South Sudan deputy ambassador to Kenya, said that the government is aware that Troika has initiated plans for fresh negotiations, but Juba is yet to be officially contacted on the issue.

Mr Deng, however, said that the government’s position is that there is no need for fresh negotiations because the August 2015 peace agreement is implemented.

“The National Dialogue Committee and top government officials are currently at the grassroots talking to people and promoting peace and national unity. We want the church leaders and chiefs to be involved because they represent the view of the grassroots, while the opposition is free to come back to the country because they have been given amnesty,” said Mr Deng.

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