By Beyene Geda
April 7, 2014 (Addis Ababa) — Peace talks between South Sudan’s warring parties have been adjourned again to allow both sides to consult with their respective leaders, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) said.
This comes amid recent reports indicating that the peace talks had reached a deadlock due to the government’s insistence on the non-participation of seven officials from the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
The seven were arrested by South Sudanese authorities on allegations they played a role in an alleged attempted coup.
In a brief statement on Monday, IGAD said the second session of Phase II of the South Sudan peace talks “will be adjourned from 7 April until 22 April 2014 for consultations”.
“During this period, the parties will confer with their principals,” said the regional bloc, adding its special envoys “will remain closely engaged with leaders” of IGAD member states, and other partners.
A first round of the peace talks in January resulted in the signing of a cessation of hostilities pact and an agreement to expedite the release of 11 politicians who were detained when the unrest erupted.
South Sudan has been rocked by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar of attempting to overthrow his regime.
The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives.
Meanwhile, an advance team of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) politburo members convened on Saturday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa in preparation for its leadership review and self-assessment forum.
The forum, initiated within the framework of the IGAD-led peace process for South Sudan, is expected to provide critical contribution to the ongoing broader political dialogue towards national reconciliation and healing.
IGAD said on Sunday that the advance team “meeting will develop the agenda, modalities and time frame for the forum, which will address underlying causes of the current crisis in South Sudan”.
In a related development, the chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has welcomed the setting up of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement or SPLM Intra-Party Dialogue Forum.
The process “should enable the SPLM leadership to examine in-depth the underlying causes of the crisis facing their party and of the conflict in South Sudan,” she said.
Dlamini-Zuma said all the stakeholders should take advantage of the intra-party talks, which are expected to run alongside the IGAD-led mediation efforts, to advance the cause of peace, security, stability, reconciliation and good governance in South Sudan.
The SPLM Intra-Party Dialogue Forum will be facilitated by representatives of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC).