Opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-in-Opposition) led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, has distanced itself from the demand by president Salva Kiir’s government to change the venue of the peace talks from Ethiopia to Kenya, saying the call was an unnecessary attempt by the government to cause further delays.
- IGAD chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin (L) and the SPLM In Opposition’s lead negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, attend the resumption of South Sudan talks in Addis Ababa on 11 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)
“Our leadership sees no necessity to change the venue. This would unnecessarily cause further delays in the peace talks,” Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
Information minister and government’s spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth on Tuesday floated the government’s demand to change the venue from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where the two warring parties have been negotiating for the last nine months, to Nairobi, Kenya.
Lueth cited frustration in mediation as the reason in which he accused the former Ethiopian minister of foreign affairs and chief mediator, Seyoum Mesfin of allegedly favouring the position of the rebel faction in the negotiations and called for his replacement.
Mesfin was in December appointed by the leadership of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to mediate between the parties in which he is also assisted by Kenyan envoy General Lazarus Sumbeiywo, among others.
He however hinted that the final decision on whether to change the venue as well as the chief mediator will be handled by the heads of state and government of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“The question of the change of venue and even the change of mediation is still holding. We have raised this,” Lueth told reporters on Tuesday.
“It is not me or the [government] delegation that would demand it, but [it] will have to be decided by the IGAD heads of states and governments because they are the very people who decided the mediators from 27 December 2013,” he said.
The minister also accused IGAD leaders in general and Troika countries of the US, Norway and UK of allegedly being biased and breeding regime change in South Sudan.
However, Dak questioned the motive behind the government’s demand to change the venue when progress was made in Bahir Dar.
He added that the rebel group had no problem with either Ethiopia or Kenya as venue but said it was seriousness by the parties to negotiate in good faith that mattered in order to reach an agreement.
“What would the government benefit from changing venues? Is it a delaying tactic that the regime is trying to pursue?” Dak inquired, adding that the best thing the government could do was to negotiate in “good faith to end the violence which their leadership imposed on the people of South Sudan.”
Kenya was the venue for the peace talks between the former SPLM guerilla fighters and the Sudanese government which took many years to conclude.
Dak accused the government of “dragging its feet”, saying Juba position was marred by contradictions as they agreed to federalism as the best governance system but at the same time refused its implementation as part of the would-be peace agreement.
SPLM-in-Opposition also demanded that the would-be prime minister shall be the head of government while the president takes ceremonial role as head of state, arguing that this is an arrangement which is widely practiced in parliamentary leadership systems.
The government has rejected the proposal, arguing that this would make the prime minister more powerful than the president.
IGAD mediation on Sunday announced it adjourned the talks until 16 October in order to consult with the principal leaders of the two warring parties.
Tens of thousands of people have died and 1.5 million more displaced when political debates within the ruling SPLM party between the two top leaders and their supporters turned violent and developed into a deadly conflict pitting Kiir’s Dinka tribe and their internal and external allies against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.