The government of South Sudan and the rebel forces have finally agreed to meet for peace talks on Sunday. The talks will begin at 12 pm GMT, confirmed Dina Mufti, spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry. Both the rival groups met in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, on Saturday and hugged to signify the start of the peace initiatives. The peace talks were delayed a number of times due to clashes which were continually taking place in and around the city of Bor.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “The parties must use these talks to make rapid, tangible progress on a cessation of hostilities,” and urged the Salva Kiir led Sudanese Government to release all the political detainees as was promised. This is also the agenda of Riek Machar, who is the leader of the rebel faction. On Saturday, the rebel negotiator Taban Deng Gai asked the Sudanese Government to release these prisoners so that the detainees could join the rebel leaders in Addis Ababa.
More than 200,000 people have already been displaced, and over 1,000 lives sacrificed in this ethnic fight. President Salva Kiir purged his cabinet in July of last year, which included Vice President Riek Machar, after a bitter struggle for power. The tension grew stronger when the loyal supporters of the former vice president engaged in clashes with government forces. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Barnaba Benjamin, made it clear to the BBC that the coup attempt by the rebels was the instigating factor leading to the unrest. The BBC further reported that each group believes it has the upper hand, so to achieve an agreement in the peace talks would require some dramatic changes in each party’s stance.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry said that the peace talks should not be a “delay gimmick” for either side to gain the upper hand in the fighting. He added that both the rival groups should be responsible enough to find a tangible solution so the South Sudanese people can return to their homes. He vowed to extend all the support to the South Sudan Government whenever needed, but negated the chances of sending troops. The peace talk had been delayed several times; however, South Sudan rival groups finally agreed to sit face-to-face to discuss the relevant issues. This is one step forward toward resolving the conflict and restoring peace to the region.
According to Francis Logali, this is a political issue and should be dealt likewise. He said, “Fighting will not resolve these issues,” reported Reuters. Logali is a marketing executive in South Sudan; the continued fighting has hurt business and industry in the region.
Both the rival groups have reached Addis Ababa, and the negotiators met with the media on Saturday. The ceremonial start to the talks took place at a luxury resort in front of the media where the delegations of both rival groups were looking quite confident, as reported by several outlets.
During Sunday’s peace talks, the South Sudan rival groups are committed to resolving their differences through political dialogue, reported the special envoy to South Sudan. However, there is no definite agreement as to whether the talks will finally end the violence. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a trade bloc of eight East African countries, is promoting this peace talk along with many other organizations. The hope of all the differing entities involved in the South Sudan Peace Talks is that an agreement can be reached between the warring sides and the fighting will end.
By Sunando Basu