< FACE TO FACE MEET­ING

Ac­cord­ing to the de­ci­sion by the Igad Coun­cil of Min­is­ters in Ad­dis Ababa, the two lead­ers must meet and agree be­tween them­selves

The East African - - FRONT PAGE - By FRED OLUOCH Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

IGAD says Kiir and Machar must meet to agree on peace

It is now up to the re­gional heads of state to move the South Su­dan peace process for­ward by en­abling a face-to­face meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir and his neme­sis, Dr Riek Machar.

The de­ci­sion by the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Author­ity on De­vel­op­ment (Igad) Coun­cil of Min­is­ters in Ad­dis Ababa on Fri­day says the two lead­ers must agree be­tween them­selves.

“Even if you bring An­gel Gabriel to me­di­ate, it will not make a dif­fer­ence un­til the two lead­ers meet face to face and agree on the way for­ward. This is be­cause there is much trust deficit be­tween the two that is dif­fi­cult to bridge,” said an of­fi­cial in Kenya’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs who was among the Igad Coun­cil of Min­is­ters who re­cently visited both Pres­i­dent Kiir and Dr Machar.

How­ever, the face-to-face meet­ing — whose date has to be de­cided by the Igad heads of state meet­ing be­fore the AU meet­ing in July — re­mains a tall or­der since Pres­i­dent Kiir had made it clear that he can no longer work with Dr Machar, who leads the Su­danese Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment-in Op­po­si­tion (SPLM-IO).

In turn, Dr Machar — who has been un­der house ar­rest in South Africa since Novem­ber 2016 — says he has lost all trust in Pres­i­dent Kiir.

Mr Namwamba said that when the Igad min­is­ters de­liv­ered a mes­sage from Pres­i­dent Kiir that Dr Machar is free to re­turn home and choose his own pro­tec­tion force, the rebel leader termed it as “a joke”.

Ac­cord­ing to Mabior Garang de Mabior, the SPLM-IO direc­tor of in­for­ma­tion and pub­lic re­la­tions, the rebel group has wel­comed the de­ci­sion with cau­tion in light of Juba’s in­tran­si­gence and con­tin­ued vi­o­la­tion of the Ces­sa­tion of Hos­til­i­ties agree­ment.

“The SPLM-IO, de­spite be­ing hope­ful of the prospects of a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment, would like to ex­press our con­cern re­gard­ing any im­po­si­tion of an agree­ment on the par­ties. It is our con­tention that there are no short­cuts to peace, as demon­strated by the col­lapse of the Agree­ment in July, 2016,” said Mr Mabior.

In March, the Igad Coun­cil of Min­is­ters had re­solved that Dr Machar be re­leased from house ar­rest and re­lo­cated to an­other coun­try that does not share bor­ders with South Su­dan on con­di­tion that he re­nounces vi­o­lence and does not un­der­mine the peace talks that were set to re­sume in Ad­dis Ababa on April 26.

But SPLM-IO had in­sisted that he must be freed with­out con­di­tions as per the Ces­sa­tion of Hos­til­i­ties agree­ment on pris­on­ers of war signed last De­cem­ber.

Mean­while, on Thurs­day the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil gave South Su­dan’s war­ring sides a month to reach a peace deal or face pos­si­ble sanc­tions.

The res­o­lu­tion re­quires UN Sec­re­tary-gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res to re­port by June 30 on whether a cease­fire agreed in De­cem­ber — the lat­est in a string of truce deals — was holding, and whether the sides have “come to a vi­able po­lit­i­cal agree­ment.”

If not, the coun­cil “shall consider,” within five days of the re­port, slap­ping sanc­tions on South Su­dan’s de­fence min­is­ter and five other of­fi­cials and pos­si­bly im­pos­ing an arms em­bargo.

Ethiopia and Equa­to­rial Guinea ar­gued that peace ef­forts must be given more time, but Ivory Coast — the third African coun­try on the coun­cil — backed the res­o­lu­tion.

Ethiopia’s Am­bas­sador Tekeda Alemu warned that sanc­tions could lead to the col­lapse of the re­gional peace ef­fort by Igad.

“We in the re­gion are also ex­tremely frus­trated,” Mr Tekeda said, but he added that the sanc­tions res­o­lu­tion “will be detri­men­tal to the process.”

There are no short­cuts to peace, as demon­strated by the col­lapse of the Agree­ment in July, 2016.” SPLM-IO direc­tor Mabior Garang de Mabior

Pic­ture: AFP

A photo taken on April 14, 2016 shows a bill­board fea­tur­ing por­traits of South Su­dan’s Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir (L) and op­po­si­tion leader Riek Machar.

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