Monday, February 10, 2014

No agenda for South Sudan talks in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA — Negotiations between the warring factions in the civil conflict in South Sudan are due to resume in Addis Ababa on Monday, but there is still no clear agenda or framework for the talks and the scope of the discussions. Whether to seek a power-sharing agreement or a wider political dialogue, has yet to be determined.

There was also some doubt as to whether the rebel SPLM/A in Opposition would agree to join the talks. The release of all 11 high-ranking political officials, arrested by the state when fighting broke out on December 15 between the forces of President Salva Kiir and former vice-president Riek Machar, has not been secured.

Seven of the captives were delivered into Kenyan custody on January 29, but four — including Pagan Amum, who served as secretary-general of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party — remain in jail and, along with Dr Machar, have been charged with treason and accused of plotting a coup to overthrow Mr Kiir.



The SPLM/A in Opposition had insisted that all 11 detainees be set free, and it is not clear if this is a precondition of their participation. The seven liberated prisoners were due to arrive in Addis Ababa on Sunday and were expected to participate in the talks.

It is not known whether they will ally themselves with Dr Machar, or if they will form an independent third grouping, diplomatic sources said.

Led by Ethiopian ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, special envoys from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), the regional body charged with negotiating a political settlement, have been travelling around the region consulting with Igad leaders, as well as with Mr Kiir, Dr Machar and the released detainees, canvassing opinion of the second round of the talks.

South Sudanese civil society organisations are disappointed that they have not had any dialogue with the envoys and that they will not have a seat at the negotiating table when the discussions resume, despite assurances that they would be part of them.

The ceasefire agreement, signed on January 23, has still not been enforced.

An Igad team was dispatched a week ago to conduct an assessment of the situation on the ground, before the deployment of a full monitoring and verification operation that would evaluate the implementation of the ceasefire.
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