Split in opposition jeopardises Juba peace deal

Saturday August 15 2015
kiir riek

The political crisis in South Sudan looks set to continue as it emerged that the warring parties - President Salva Kiir's government and opposition led by Dr Riek Machar (right) - will not meet the August 17 deadline to sign peace agreement. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH |

The political crisis in South Sudan looked set to continue as it emerged that the warring parties will not meet the August 17 deadline to sign peace agreement.

While the opposition is split over the proposed deal, the government has warned that it cannot be coerced into signing a document it does not fully agreed with.

The government is also taking advantage of the split in the rebels and are also arguing that Dr Riek Machar no longer commands the loyalty of all the rebels and that they will wait till a substantive leadership emerges from the rebellion.

“We will not sign a peace agreement unless Dr Machar puts his house in order. We understand that the splinter group is working on a new proposal. We will only negotiate with whoever emerges as the leader of the rebellion,” said South Sudan deputy ambassador to Kenya James Morgan.

While the negotiating teams have been meeting in Addis Ababa since August 5, The EastAfrican has also established that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has rejected the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development deadline.

During a meeting in Kampala on August 8 that was attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, President Museveni argued that the region should be given time to find a solution to the South Sudan political crisis and that the deadline was being pushed by the Troika — US, UK and Norway — who are the main funders of the talks.


However, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan maintained that the August 17 deadline should be respected to move the peace process forward and that the economies of the three countries continue to lose because of the 20-month old civil war.

The Kampala meeting was called to review what the regional leaders discussed with US President Barack Obama in Addis Ababa in late July, where the US leader declared that the warring parties must sign a deal by August 17.

READ: Back peace agreement or face action, US tells Kiir and Machar

President Museveni and his Sudanese counterpart Omar Al Bashir have been at loggerheads since the civil war broke out, with Khartoum accusing Kampala of supporting and fighting alongside Sudanese rebels such as SPLM-N and JEM. 

As a result, representatives of Sudan and Uganda governments held talks last week in Entebbe aimed at ending the civil war in South Sudan alongside the ongoing negotiation in the Addis Ababa.

Edmund Yakani, executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation said both Khartoum and Kampala have played a negative role in the search for peace since they are influencing and promoting their war agendas in South Sudan.

“The belief in regime change by Khartoum and the use of military strategy to end the conflict by Kampala are not healthy. The attitude of pushing South Sudan into a proxy war by Khartoum and Kampala is absolutely not right as it contributes to the continued suffering of the people of South Sudan,” said Mr Yakani.

Dr Machar has been weakened by breakaway early last week led by his key commanders, Peter Gatdet Yaka and Gathoth Gatkuoth, who claim that the former vice-president is only interested in a position.

Splinter group

The political leader of the splinter group, Gabriel Changsan Chang moved to  Kenya after presenting its position to Igad mediators in Addis Ababa. The transitional government of national unity not include Dr Machar and President Salva Kiir. 

Mr Chang, who hails from Nasir in Upper Nile State, is the chairman of the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF) and a former minister for information and culture in Juba.

He had joined Dr Machar when the war started in December 2013 but has now parted ways on the grounds that the former vice president is preoccupied with the reunification of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement while neglecting the demands of his UDSF.

Dr Machar’s representative in Kenya, Adel Sandrai told The EastAfrican that the split was due to a demand by the two generals to be given support to end the war militarily.