South Sudanese are hoping for a final political agreement this week over the crisis that has beset the country for more than a year.
The accord is expected to be reached on Thursday, January 29, on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, where regional leaders will be present.
Representatives of both sides who spoke to The EastAfrican said there could be a major breakthrough after the Arusha Accord on Thursday broke the stalemate by starting the process of reuniting the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the split in which was the root cause of the 14-month war.
The focus now — after the accord, dubbed “Agreement on the Reunification of the SPLM” — is whether President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Dr Riek Machar will this time round have the commitment to implement what was agreed on in Arusha, given that previous agreements were dishonoured as soon as they were signed.
South Sudan’s charge d’affaires in Nairobi, James Morgan, said that the government side was satisfied because their main issue was the attempt to remove the government unconstitutionally and that any pending issues can now be easily tackled in Addis Ababa.
“We only wanted the rebels to accept the reality that President Kiir was democratically elected and could not be removed by unconventional means,” said Mr Morgan. “If we were to throw away the Constitution so soon after Independence, the obvious result would be chaos.”
Mr Morgan added that, since the two groups have agreed to work together, the government’s push for elections on June 30 will be reviewed.
Also positive was James Gatdet Dak, Dr Machar’s spokesperson, who said the Arusha Accord has addressed the root cause of the conflict, something the rebels have demanded all along, and that the inter-party dialogue will be positively reflected in the Addis peace talks.
Notably, Dr Machar had last October complained to South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma about the Igad mediators’ failure to address the root causes of the conflict, pointing an accusing finger at Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia for taking sides.
“From the word go we had proposed internal reforms within SPLM because the party had lost direction and vision,” said Mr Dak. “We would want to see that all the political, organisational and leadership issues are resolved as chartered by the framework agreement.”
However, Mr Dak added that his group maintains that President Kiir should step down because “we believe he not fit to lead a transition that needs such important reforms and reconciliation.”
According to Mr Morgan, however, by signing the Arusha agreement the rebels have essentially accepted President Kiir as the legitimate president and chairman of the party and those who were in opposition should now table their remaining grievances to be tackled by the relevant party organs.
“The Arusha Accord has dealt with some issues that were standing in the way of the Igad negotiations and its implementation will neutralise the fighting,” said Mr Morgan. “Dr Machar should now call off the rebellion, come home and help in the implementation, because we are now one party.”
The talks held in the northern Tanzanian town were negotiated by Tanzania’s ruling party Chama cha Mapindizi (CCM). The accord was signed by President Kiir, representing SPLM in-Government, Dr Machar on behalf of SPLM in-Opposition, Deng Alor Kuol for SPLM former detainees and CCM national chairman and Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete as a guarantor.
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa witnessed the signing.
Key among the 44 resolutions read out by CCM secretary-general Abdulrahman Kinana were the parties committing themselves to the reunification of the SPLM for it to spearhead national unity, reconciliation and healing among the people of South Sudan.
The accord also nullified all decisions that led to the expulsion of top leaders in SPLM and the government, including Dr Machar, who was also the party’s vice-chairman.
The leaders of all the factions should be integrated into the SPLM top organs, whose membership will consequently jump from 19 to 35, while freedom for each SPLM member to contest for any post in the party is guaranteed.
The reunification deal also requires the formation of a transition government to lead the country to lasting peace and that the SPLM leadership publicly apologise to Southern Sudanese for its past mistakes.
The SPLM, the deal that was sealed at Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Arusha further states, should create an ideology college for grooming its cadres and CCM should serve as a guarantor to oversee the transition period.
Ultimately, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to return to South Sudan as one family and embark on the building of their young nation regardless of background.
Reported by Fred Oluoch in Nairobi and Adam Ihucha in Arusha