SOUTH SUDAN CONFLICT
Last week’s update on the situation in South Sudan following the violence that broke out on December 15, 2013 concluded on a positive note - a Council of Ministers had been formed by the East African states to begin crisis talks to end the violence.
During the past week, certain positive developments took place. Both parties agreed to hold peace talks and gathered in Ethiopia on Thursday. “We are ready for talks”, a member of the rebel delegation told AFP on Thursday. However, their leader, Riek Machar had earlier in the week told AFP via satellite phone that he had not agree to an immediate ceasefire nor hold face-to-face talks with president Salva Kiir.
Talks, however, opened in the Ethiopian capital on Friday, Ethiopian foreign ministry announced. The negotiators from both the government and rebel sides first held several meetings with mediators in order to understand key issues as well as agree on agenda items and modalities for negotiations so as to prepare ground for direct talks later in the week.
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary, Mahboud Maalim, said the formal direct negotiations finally started on Saturday. The negotiations would focus on cessation of hostilities and the question of detainees. Mr. Maalim expressed IGAD’s confidence that the negotiations would bear fruit and ensure a speedy return to normalcy, peace and stability in South Sudan.
Meanwhile, fighting has continued even as warring parties meet in Ethiopia to try to agree on a ceasefire. The BBC’s Alastair Leithead who has been with government troops in Bor said that large numbers of reinforcements were being brought in as the government tries to retake Bor. Fighting was also reported to be continuing in the oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile, both in the northern part of South Sudan.
Civilians affected by the conflict face an increasingly dire situation. There is lack of shelter; food and medicine are running out, while sanitary conditions are worsening. It is estimated that some 200,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes, many seeking refuge with badly overstretched UN Peacekeepers.
The outcome of just started face-to face talks will be covered in our next week’s blog. Keep on praying for the peace process.
No Peace in South Sudan-Update Jan 6, 2014
By Henry Okumu
Back Row: John Weymer (Board Member, Henry Okumu (African Director), Paramount Chief Lokidong, Donnie Brake (President), Jonglie Chief Lino, Two sub-chiefs.
Front Row: Ken (Construction Supervisor), Teacher Beko, Diana (Grad student), Christopher (Translator for Diana).