The third session of the South Sudan peace talks set to begin on March 20 is facing fresh challenges following growing suspicions in Juba that the proposed peace roadmap could limit President Salva Kiir’s powers.
The EastAfrican has learnt that mediators of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) have convinced some of the Troika countries that their initial preference of an interim government could breed more conflict, and are now fine-tuning a plan to work with President Kiir to initiate political reforms.
The peace roadmap contains, among other things, proposed reform of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) structures and management style, a review of the constitution and modalities for the scheduled April 2015 elections, with clear times lines on when they are supposed to be realised.
Initially, the Troika — the US, UK and Norway — were in favour of an interim government excluding both President Kiir and his rival Dr Riek Machar.
But Igad mediators and regional countries have been against the idea on the grounds that it could worsen the situation because the South Sudan army is made up of many former militia groups who could take advantage of the vacuum to curve out regions for themselves.
As a result, there will be a meeting between Igad diplomats and those from Troika on March 18 in Addis Ababa to discuss these proposals and take a common position ahead of the third session of the talks.
On Thursday, the 25th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Igad Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa authorised the deployment of a Protection and Deterrent Force (PDF) by mid-April 2014 as part of its monitoring and verification mechanism in South Sudan.
The summit also agreed that all Igad member states be accorded observer status and be allowed to participate in ongoing negotiations and the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM).
The leaders urged parties to the South Sudan conflict to comply fully with the Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Agreement and its implementation modalities, as proof of their political will and commitment to end the war.
They are also pushing the Juba government to release the four remaining detainees, in accordance with the Status of Detainees Agreement signed on January 23.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn who chaired the summit said: “We should say ‘no’ to spoilers who are not interested in peace. ... We should all bear in mind that negotiations are about readiness to give and take.”
However, sources in Addis Ababa revealed that the US is still insisting that Ugandan troops leave South Sudan if any meaningful political solution is to be found.
Some of the proposals have not been received well in Juba, where there is growing suspicion that some Western powers are keen on seeing the exit of President Kiir by trying to impose conditions that would not be accepted to his government. The exit of Ugandan forces would leave President Kiir exposed.
These suspicions, combined with the discovery of United Nations trucks transporting arms to rebel held areas, saw Vice President James Wani Igga accuse Western governments of offering aid with strings attached and with hidden agenda to undermine recipient countries.
While analysts agree that President Kiir had been applying a military approach in the management of party affairs, his supporters argue that management of SPLM is an internal affair and that disputes within the party cannot be settled through the imposition of views by outsiders.
John Andruga Duku, a former South Sudan head mission in Kenya argued that outsiders can only give constructive ideas but cannot impose implementation because every country is peculiar and to try and impose solutions that worked in other countries may not work.
“We are getting concerned that some countries are trying to apply the Kenyan and Zimbabwe (that faced election disputes) solutions in South Sudan. South Sudan did not have disputes over elections but is facing a full-blown rebellion that needs different solutions,” said Mr Duku.
He argued that one of the reasons why there is violation of Cessation of Hostilities agreement of January 23 is because Igad has been lacking the financial and technical capacity to deploy robust monitoring team, which has given opportunity for those against the agreement to try and seek more territories.