South Sudan criticizes peace mediators
February 17, 2014 [JUBA] — South Sudan’s president and a national minister over the weekend expressed criticism of African diplomats who are mediating the peace talks between the government and the opposition faction of SPLM/A.
First, the president speaking to supporters on Saturday suggested that the African Union was lending support to the opposition, without further elaboration.
Then, Information Minister Michael Makuei, spokesman of the South Sudanese government delegation at peace talks in Ethiopia, accused IGAD mediators of failing to adhere to terms of the Cessation of Hostilities document signed 23 January.
Kiir, in his speech Saturday, said the “African Union is actually violating their own regulations that they should not support anybody who takes power by means of violence.”
The president was referring to the constitution or ‘Constitutive Act’ of the African Union, which condemns unconstitutional changes of government.
Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Michael Makuei said the mediators of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have breached the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement by excluding the two parties from the monitoring mechanism.
“The IGAD Envoys are already in flagrant violation of the provision of the Cessation of Hostilities. The Cessation of Hostilities talks about the establishment of the Joint Technical Committee that will comprise of the two parties, the Troika, the IGAD and so forth,” said the minister.
He continued, “These people will sit down and work out the mechanism for verification and monitoring teams; these people will agree on the areas where the verification and monitoring teams will be stationed in South Sudan. This team will work out the terms of reference and the modalities of the Cessation of Hostilities.”
“All these are not done up to now. Instead, the IGAD has decided to go ahead and sent in a team of nine to the exclusion of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the rebels,” Makuei concluded.
He was speaking with Eye Radio 98.6 in an interview on Sunday at the new venue for the talks, an Ethiopian resort near Debre Zeit, 50 km from Addis Ababa.
Criticism of pressure on Uganda
The spokesperson also blamed IGAD and the AU for pressuring Uganda to end their intervention in the South Sudan conflict. According to Ugandan and South Sudanese officials, the cooperation between the two armies is based on the sovereign right of the two nations.
But Uganda’s role in the fighting has heightened tensions within the IGAD bloc and some members of IGAD have pressured Uganda to withdraw their forces from South Sudan. Envoys from the mediation team apparently confronted President Yoweri Museveni asking him to withdraw his troops, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who chairs the regional body, said in a televised address last week that the time has come for Uganda to begin withdrawing.
Commenting on this situation, Makuei said, “Well, you see there is a problem with IGAD and the African Union. IGAD in its communiqué of 27 December supported the role being played by Uganda in South Sudan and this is very clearly stated in their communiqué.”
“The very members of IGAD today are the ones who have turned their back on Uganda and saying what Uganda is doing is not good. Meanwhile, they have not reversed their communiqué,” he added. “The African Union also supported the role of Uganda. I am surprised and to me these are mere individual opinions being expressed by people who are in positions in these organizations.”
However, a representative of the SPLM/A in opposition in the monitoring and verification team, Gatkoi Galwak, told Eye Radio by phone that both the government and the opposition are part of the monitoring team.
He contradicted Makuei’s claim saying that the government representative who is the defence attaché in South Sudan’s Embassy in Ethiopia, showed up for only one meeting and did not return, indicating lack of interest from the government.
IGAD and the released detainees
A third senior official, presidential spokesman Ateny Wek, on Friday expressed some reservations about the role of the new ‘third party’ of SPLM dissidents who joined the peace talks last Thursday.
These politicians were released at the insistence of IGAD, which facilitated their travel first to Kenya on 31 January and then to Ethiopia on 12 February for participation in the second round of negotiations.
Ateny Wek said the South Sudanese government would not object to the mediation effort or ‘hamper’ their work, but noted that the seven detainees, “were released to go to third country… on the basis of them not going to participating in any political work.”
“According to the president, the mediators are free because you cannot hamper a mediation effort if they think that these people would be useful at any event, then, the mediators are free to give them whatever position they want to put them in,” said the spokesman, while cautioning that the mediation had not yet formally informed them of the role they would take in the talks.
“Now we wait until we are officially informed as to their position. Up to now maybe they are still negotiating their position. Our team went to Addis Ababa to negotiate with people who call themselves Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition. So if they are not part of the SPLM-SPLA in Opposition, then they have to convince the mediators what are they, and we will be informed accordingly,” he added.