South Sudan: Malakal Faces Rebel Attack as Peace Talks Move to Night Club
South Sudan – Malakal, capital of Upper Nile State, is facing an upcoming attack by the rebel army as peace talks in Addis Abada have moved locations to a night club. A rebel force in Upper Nile State is currently marching toward Malakal and has stated that they expect to take Malakal within 24 hours.
The government army, however, stated that there was no fighting going on in Upper Nile, and that the only fighting taking place in South Sudan was in the Bor region. Amy spokesperson Philip Aguer stated that he expected the SPLA to recapture Bor from the rebels within 48 hours.
As SPLA in Malakal faced a threatened attack by South Sudanese rebels, peace talk meeting took place Monday after moving to a night club, but lasted only 10 minutes. Seyoum Mesfin, the lead mediator for the talks, was in Juba meeting President Kiir, and the IGAD delegation postponed further negotiations until Mesfin’s return to Addis Abada. During the 10 minute meeting the parties reviewed the draft cessation of hostilities agreement. The draft had been prepared by the IGAD mediators last week. The draft agreement is a harmonization of the demands of both delegations.
The peace talk location has been moved from the Sheraton Hotel to a night club in the basement of a different Addis Abada hotel. A Japanese delegation had a previous reservation for the Sheraton Hotel. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is currently wrapping up his first tour of Africa and is staying in Addis Abada.
The nightclub is called the Gaslight. Some delegates were reported to have complained about poor lighting and excess noise in the new peace talk location. The Gaslight is reportedly the most classy nightclub in Addis Abada, catering to the wealthy and attractive.
The need for cessation of hostilities has been highlighted by the UN’s recent warnings that South Sudan has a limited window in which to get food supplies pre-positioned for the whole year. South Sudan is currently in its dry season. In May the wet season will begin, at which time distribution of food and other humanitarian supplies will be much more difficult to accomplish. Sixty percent of South Sudan’s roads–which are scant–are not traversable during the rainy season. The wet season is also the growing season for agriculture, and seeds and other agricultural provisions must be ready at that time.
“Timing is everything. There are fish in the rivers now, pastoralists are trying to protect their herds and the planting season for maize, groundnut and sorghum starts in March,” said UN Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Juba, Sue Lautze. “It is essential that security and stability return to South Sudan immediately so that displaced people can return to their homes, fields, herds and fishing grounds.”
The UN has stated that 4.4 million South Sudanese were projected to be already threatened with food shortages in 2014 before the conflict broke out. Of that 4.4 million, 830 000 were threatened with acute food insecurity. Currently, nearly 400 000 South Sudanese have been displaced by the conflict which broke out December 15 in Juba, the South Sudanese capital.
Some remote locations in South Sudan will most likely need to be fortified by air, which is more expensive and less effective. The UN’s WFP would normally begin now to pre-position its food supplies around South Sudan in an organized, economical way, but fighting in South Sudan has made this difficult or impossible in some locations, such as Malakal which is faced with immanent rebel attack that will most likely continue as peace talks are prolonged at the new location in the Addis Abada night club.
By Day Blakely Donaldson