South Sudan President Salva Kiir is reaching out to the opposition after intense pressure from the international community to prove that the National Dialogue he initiated last December is real and is capable of saving the country from the escalating violence.
President Kiir last Tuesday appointed John Garang’s widow Rebecca Garang and two of her allies in the group of former detainees, John Luke and former finance minister Kosti Manibe members of the National Dialogue committee.
Sources close to Juba told The EastAfrican that besides pressure from the United Nations and the United States to show that he has the capacity to end the violence, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, last month made it clear to the Kiir administration that he needed results as refugees continue to deluge his country.
The former detainees recently met with President Museveni in Entebbe where they briefed him on the deteriorating humanitarian situation, after which he met the government delegation led by First Vice-President, Taban Deng.
This came after Nimrata Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN at a Security Council briefing on South Sudan on April 25, lamented that the authorities in Juba are making no effort to end the violence despite assurance to the international community, and the famine that is facing five million people is man-made.
“In contrast, the parties to the conflict in South Sudan have little to no progress to report. As we meet here today, none of these steps have been taken. Not one. We called on the warring parties to immediately adhere to a ceasefire. Instead, there are reports of serious human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law – many at the hands of government forces,” she said.
Ms Haley said that the famine in South Sudan is manmade as a result of an apparent campaign against the civilian population and the killing of humanitarian workers — 16 in this year alone.
“It is the result of denying starving people access to the food and medicine that will save their lives,” she said.
The US diplomat’s strong statement came in the wake of tension in Juba after President Kiir’s administration accused Khartoum of sponsoring the media to speculate on either a pending coup or a voluntary handover by President Kiir to some senior military commanders.
Khartoum has maintained that Juba is supporting Sudanese rebels to destabilise the government of President Omar al-Bashir.
These three developments have forced President Kiir to show that the government is making some effort to end the war, after the National Dialogue he announced in December 2016 failed to take off due to lack of funds and suspicions from the opposition.
Both Dr Riek Machar’s rebel movement and the former detainees have accused President Kiir of hiding behind the National Dialogue as a tactic to escape implementation of the provisions of the August 2015 peace agreement.