By FRED OLUOCH,
Oct 27, 2014(The East African) — The intervention by Tanzania in the South Sudan peace talks has given fresh impetus to a possible settlement. Diplomatic sources say the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) mediation team has been grappling with competing interests among its member states that have threatened to stall the talks.
It started when Dr Riek Machar — who has maintained that Igad mediators have not been addressing the root causes of the conflict —reached out to South African President Jacob Zuma in mid-October with the complaint that Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia had taken sides.
Sources close to the mediations in Ethiopia say President Zuma immediately called Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete. President Kikwete held talks with Dr Machar, and then contacted Juba and convened the intra-SPLM dialogue in Arusha funded by the Crisis Management Initiative.
The Arusha meeting, which involved the SPLM in government, SPLM in opposition and SPLM of 10 former detainees and was attended by President Salva Kiir and Dr Machar, agreed, for the first time, that the conflict was as a result of division within the liberation movement. The three factions later signed a roadmap agreement to reunite the party, a move that was outside the Igad mediation process.
The meeting also offered SPLM members an opportunity to share their experiences with the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party on how to manage liberation movements.
Although the initiative was separate from the Igad process, the Tanzanian leadership updated regional and international partners in the South Sudan peace process. Tanzania does not share a border with South Sudan and is therefore more neutral than Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.
Sources close to the talks disclosed that President Kiir is softening his stance on some of the conditions he had put forward, which were seen as stumbling blocks to the peace process.
He had insisted that there would be no peace if he was not the head of state and government in the new arrangement, that the prime minister nominated by the opposition should be acceptable to the president, and that the prime minister should not take part in the next elections.
The new developments led to leaders of Igad partner states — Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ethiopian Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn, Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda — and the Igad mediation team convening a mini-summit in Juba on Wednesday.
President Kenyatta and Igad mediators had held consultations with Dr Machar on October 19, and continued consultations on Thursday at State House, Nairobi.
There are hopes of a breakthrough in the outstanding issues at the Igad summit set for next week. The two main outstanding issues are the nature of federal government, and the power structure between the president and the proposed prime minister.
The opposition is proposing further division of the 10 states to create more federal units, but the government side is yet to accept the idea.
“What is remaining is how the two positions are going to share power. We have proposed that the prime minster becomes the head of government, while the president remains head of state with ceremonial powers,” said James Gatdet Dak, the spokesperson for Dr Machar.
However, the Juba administration is concerned that SPLM in opposition is trying to render President Kiir powerless, akin to their earlier demand that he should resign after failing to hold the country together. Juba insists that the proposed SPLM convention will decide on the leadership of President Kiir.