May 12, 2014(Juba) — Hailemariam Desalegn, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, threatened to detain South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar and even the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir in order to pressure them into signing a ceasefire, the latter has claimed.
Although Kiir described the threat against himself as a joke, he implied that the intimidation of Riek Machar had been real.
Kiir and Machar were both treated as honored guests during their stay at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa last Friday – but also were put under a great deal of pressure.
“You will not leave here,” the Ethiopian leader is reported to have said to South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar, and to Kiir, “I will imprison you here.”
Regardless of whether Hailemariam did or did not directly threaten Machar, it is clear that he has significant leverage over the rebel leader given the long border between Ethiopia and South Sudanese territory controlled by Machar’s fighters.
These revelations were made by Kiir during an address to a crowd at Juba Airport upon his return to the country yesterday afternoon. He recounted the terms of what was agreed at the Friday summit as well as the discussions that led to the deal.
‘You will agree to this today’
“When I arrived to Addis Ababa we did not sit with Riek Machar to discuss peace. He was staying in his room and I was also in my room. Riek Machar did not want to talk to me nor did he want a peace agreement,” explained the president.
“So he was on his own, and me also, and the mediators started to go back and forth between us. They went to Riek, and listened to him, then came back to me, took what I had to say and went back to Riek.”
“What happened was that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia talked to me, and he said, ‘Since you’ve come, you have to sign (today) for a ceasefire – not tomorrow – in order to stop the death happening in the field.’”
“I told him, ‘I am ready. If the other side is also ready, then I am ready.’ He said, ‘That is good, I am going to Riek.’”
Kiir continued to narrate the events of 9 May, explaining that the Ethiopian leader discussed the proposal at length with Riek Machar but the latter “was not ready and wanted seven days in order to consult with his people.”
“The Prime Minister supposedly said, ‘I will not even give you one day, let alone seven days. I will not even give you one day,’” reported Kiir.
Sometime in the afternoon or perhaps early evening Riek Machar went back to his hotel either to consult with his negotiating team or to make phone contact with other rebel leaders in his movement.
Kiir stated that at this point he had another conversation with the Ethiopian leader, urging Hailemariam to keep pushing on the matter.
‘There were threats in the next round’
“When he went into the next round, there were threats over it. The Prime Minister said to Riek, “You will not leave here, if you do not agree to this. Nobody will leave from here,” stated Kiir.
“And he had said the same thing to me in the morning. He said to me, ‘If you do not agree on this issue, I will imprison you here.’”
“I said to him, ‘If you imprison me here I’m sure I’d get good food. So there would be no benefit of returning to Juba. I will stay here with you.’”
The president also referred to the signing ceremony, which was the first time the two men came face-to-face since December. He acknowledged that he did not want to shake hands with Riek Machar, but finally did so at the urging of Hailemariam.
Friday’s face-to-face meeting between the two South Sudanese leaders was arranged by Ethiopian, European and US diplomats, including US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The latter just days before the meeting named Kiir’s top guard commander and Machar’s top general to a list for targeted economic sanctions, describing the move as only a first step, with sanctions against more individuals to be announced later.
Courtesy of Radio Tamazuj