As the South Sudan peace process hits a deadlock, government supporters are warning the United States not to arm-twist the two factions into a hurried peace deal that would allow hardliners in government to gain an upper hand.
Already, the military in Juba has been put on high alert with sources saying that President Salva Kiir is under extreme pressure from the military top brass not to sign any deal that brings former vice-president Dr Riek Machar into government.
The United States, which is part of the Troika that has been sponsoring the talks for over one year, had taken a firm stand that the parties must reach an agreement by March 5 or face international sanctions.
South Sudan ambassador to Kenya Mariano Deng Ngor argued that sanctions will not resolve the situation and that President Kiir has already given amnesty to all rebels. The rebels in exile, he said, should return home to help implement the Arusha Accord that seeks to unite the three SPLM factions
“It is extremely disappointing that the United States, which played a leading role in ensuring the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, was the leading architect of this unfortunate resolution. Peace cannot be negotiated under threats and sanctions,” said Mr Ngor, while receiving eight members of the Collo community who were previously with Dr Machar but have defected to government.
The EastAfrican has established that President Kiir had delayed his trip for face-to-face discussions with Dr Machar in Addis Ababa because the military’s generals had told him not to go.
As the March 5 deadline set by the international community approached, the Sudanese People’s liberation Army (SPLA) issued an ultimatum on three issues they would not compromise on.
They said they will not accept the integration of rebels into the army with higher ranks than they had before the rebellion, they will not accept inflated numbers of the rebel forces as a means of gainning the majority in the army, and finally they will not accept Dr Machar as the vice-president.
However, his technocrats later persuaded him to travel because he was going to be seen by the international community as the one impeding the peace process.
John Andruga Duku, a former South Sudan head of mission in Kenya, said pressure by the Troika for a quick fix is likely to backfire because it does not have mechanisms on the ground to enforce the sanctions.
This happened as the Inter-Governmental Authority on development (Igad)-led talks in Addis Ababa failed to agree on key major issues such as federalism, status of forces, transitional security arrangements, wealth-sharing, status of the national legislature, national debts, transitional justice and parameters of the permanent constitution-making process.
The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday adopted a US-sponsored resolution to impose sanctions on the South Sudan’s warring parties, including travel bans, asset freezes and an arms embargo.
The draft recommended that members of the South Sudan government, including the president, vice president and ministers in power before the Cabinet’s dissolution in July 2013, “be barred from participation in the transitional executive.”
It called for an AU-appointed and UN-backed three-person panel to oversee a five-year transition and the creation of a transitional executive that would place all oil revenue in an escrow account overseen by the African Development Bank.
It recommended the creation of an African Oversight Force made up of troops “without prior involvement or direct interest in South Sudan” that would be under AU command and “the overall charge” of a UN peacekeeping mission.
Sources within Igad told The EastAfrican that the US and the other two Troika members — UK and Norway — go tired of sponsoring talks that are going round in circles as both sides give the impression that they want peace but are busy preparing for military action.
Yet, should the UN Security Council go ahead and declare sanctions, it will be upon Igad members — Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan — to ensure that they are implemented.
The SPLM-in-Opposition representative in Kenya, Adel Sandrai, argued that save for a last minute rescue by the international community, the talks have been a “comprehensive disagreement” due to what he described as President Kiir’s decision to go back on what had been agreed.
“The Igad deadline was unrealistic because you cannot discuss major issues that have troubled the country since Independence in 2011 in two weeks. It shows that the Igad mediators are not aware of the depth of the issues and the time needed to resolve them,” said Mr Sandrai.
Sources in Addis revealed that the government refused to budge on three key issues. The demand by the opposition for two armies and two commanders-in-chief during the transition period; the structure of government of the Transitional Government of National Unity and the proposal that Dr Machar becomes the First Vice-President.
Igad mediators spent most of Thursday in Addis Ababa meeting President Kiir, Dr Machar and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in an attempts to save the talks, aware that the Troika was likely to withdraw the funding, which may lead the talks to collapse completely.
Source: The East African
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