South Sudan President Salva Kiir refused to sign a peace deal with rival Riek Machar after finding the text of the accord had been altered from the one that had been agreed upon, the government camp now says.
South Sudan's deputy ambassador to Kenya John Morgan told The EastAfrican that President Kiir was aware of the deal in store when he left Juba on Monday for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the last-ditch talks were to be held to forestall economic and military sanctions being imposed on the warring factions.
Later that day, President Kiir refused to endorse a deal backed by IGAD and the troika – the US, the UK and Norway – saying he needed 15 days for consultations as Mr Machar put pen to paper, gaining some mileage as a pro-peace leader.
“The president left for Addis because he thought the deal he was meant to sign was reasonable. This was until he realised that some of the controversial clauses removed during the Entebbe meeting were reinstated in the Addis peace deal,” Mr Morgan said.
However, President Kiir had earlier appeared to suggest that he was going to Addis Ababa against his will; for fear of being branded anti-peace.
“Even if I am not happy, I must show my face. If I don’t go, negative forces will take me as the one against the peace that was going to be signed,” President Kiir told reporters before leaving Juba.
Machar told reporters he was surprised by Kiir’s decision.
“I didn’t know that he was not going to sign. I couldn’t find any explanation for this because he had it all. There is no reason why he requested for more time. We had a good agreement,” Mr Machar.
The decision not to sign came as a surprise to regional leaders and the international community who had hopped the peace deal would mark a step closer in achieving a peace for the country.
The US, through its State department, said it “would consider ways to raise the cost for intransigence” while the EU has said failure to sign the agreement within the 15 days requested “would entail consequences.”
President Kiir refused to sign the peace deal because the reinstated clauses would see the capital Juba declared a demilitarised zone, have him share power with Mr Machar both at the national and state level, and exercise executive authority with his rival.
Perhaps most controversially, the peace deal would allow Mr Machar to be in control of his rebel forces while Mr Kiir would be in charge of the national army – presenting a dangerous situation where the country could potentially have two commanders-in-chief.
A recent meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, bringing together the so called “frontline” states, resolved to remove these provisions.
However, the president’s allies blame the US for putting pressure on regional leaders and mediators, who had been meeting in Addis since August 5th, to throw out the Entebbe peace proposal.
“IGAD members took it upon themselves in Entebbe to amend the July peace plan driven by the troika,” the deputy ambassador told The EastAfrican.
“That made our president want to go to Addis, but the troika was able to prevail on IGAD member states and the Entebbe proposal was removed from the deal.”
The deal gives 90 days for demilitarisation of Juba, which will come under the control of foreign troops from IGAD members and the UN which will take charge for 30 months until elections are held.
It is in Juba that President Kiir’s most loyal forces are stationed, but with Machar’s forces only 25 km away, it is no guarantee, according to some sources, that the former vice president may not attempt to take over the city again.
The Entebbe proposal also limited power sharing to the national level only, and stated that the status quo at the state level to be maintained before December 2013.
In the national executive, President Kiir will take 53 per cent, Mr Machar will take 33 per cent and 14 per cent will be split equally between former detainees and political parties. In the 325 seat legislature, former rebels will be reinstated to their positions before 15 December 2013.
But the new deal will see President Kiir’s side take 46 per cent of the governments in the most affected states in the war – Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states – while Mr Machar takes 40 per cent with the rest going to the former political detainees and other political parties.
Mr Machar will also get to nominate governors for the two oil-rich states of Unity and Upper Nile while President Kiir appoints the governor of Jonglei state.
South Sudan's civil war broke out in December 2013, when President Kiir accused his former vice president Machar of planning a coup, setting off a wave of violence that has split the country along ethnic lines.
At least seven ceasefires have already been agreed to and then broke within days even with the threat of sanctions, arms embargo, travel bans and asset freezes.
Earlier in August 2015 while on an African two-nation tour, President Barack Obama gave Mr Kiir and Mr Machar up to August 17th to reach a deal.