Igad to handle South Sudan rebels’ complaints

Saturday September 1 2018

South Sudanese leaders Salva Kiir and Riek Machar

South Sudanese leaders Salva Kiir and Riek Machar initial peace deal in Khartoum. PHOTO | AFP 

By FRED OLUOCH
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Regional leaders will hold a special summit on South Sudan in Nairobi mid-September to address sticky issues in the peace process.

Diplomatic sources in Khartoum said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir — who is the guarantor of the last phase of the talks — has assured opposition leader Dr Riek Machar that he would table his concerns at the summit for a collective decision.

President al-Bashir met Dr Machar in Khartoum on Wednesday, a day after the rebel leader raised objections to the peace deal, saying some of the proposals by his Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposing (SPLM-IO) were ignored. However, he signed the deal on Thursday.

But another headache ahead is whether President al-Bashir can persuade other Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) leaders to include demands by Dr Machar and other opposition groups that have singled out what they call “bracketed areas.”

“President al-Bashir did not want to be seen as imposing an agreement on the South Sudanese. He would rather the regional leaders consider the concerns raised by the opposition,” said James Oryema, the SPLM-IO representative in Kenya.

Once the Igad summit resolves the outstanding issues in Nairobi, the mediators will retreat to Addis Ababa where they will harmonise the new features of the agreement with the 2015 peace deal, before the final signing.

SPLM-IO, together with the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) had suggested that the permanent constitution-making should be undertaken by a new National Constitutional Assembly involving other parties and not the current National Constitutional Review Commission that was single handily constituted by President Salva Kiir.

However, the mediators led by Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister Al-Dirdiri Mohamed Ahmed, said the Khartoum Round of Talks had no mandate to tackle the constitutional-making process.

Both SPLM-IO and the SSOA, which comprises nine armed and non-armed groups, also want the decision-making organ in the Cabinet, the Council of Ministers in which President Kiir enjoys a majority, to be changed to collegial instead of majority votes.

“The decision-making process, means the government is able to amend the agreement at will. The regime only needs the vote of four VPs to change the agreement and they already have three. This means the status quo will dominate the transition and the agreement will be dismantled,” said Mabior Garang de Mabior, the rebel group’s chairperson for information and public relations.

The opposition has also rejected the 32 states created by President Kiir, and demanded that the country revert to the initial 10 states.

The Igad mediators had the proposed a referendum led by Independent Boundaries Commission for South Sudanese to choose between the 32 and 10 states, or any alternative that may come up.

However, the former detainees, commonly known as the FDs, have rejected the last chapter on the grounds that their chief mediator, former foreign minister Deng Alor, signed the chapter prematurely before the groups completed their consultations.

The FDs leader, Pagan Amum, who is also the SPLM secretary-general, said the final chapter has left many issues unresolved, and does not create the necessary conditions for a sustainable peace in South Sudan.

He maintained that the outstanding issues that they had raised earlier need to be resolved satisfactorily and reflected in the final text of the draft agreement before initialising.

“At this eleventh hour, we can no longer rely on vague assurances of signing documents with reservations or having points of disagreements bracketed or referred to other bodies for decision,” he said.

Former assistant minister of foreign affairs and a member of the FDs, Dr Cirino Hiteng, told The EastAfrican that Mr Alor, and Transport Minister John Luke Jok, have virtually defected and are working with the government.

“Most of the FD members have agonised for quite some time over their inability to comply with the majority decisions. However, they will continue to maintain the two FDs positions as part of the government because they practically abandoned the reform agenda,” said Dr Cirino.