South Sudan to Bail Remaining Detainees After Probe

South Sudan’s government said four politicians it detained following an alleged coup attempt will be able to participate in peace talks that resume next month, a key rebel demand.

The detainees, including Pagan Amum, the former secretary-general of South Sudan’s ruling party, will be released at the end of initial investigations into their involvement, Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said in an interview in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Seven other suspects were transferred to Kenya on Jan. 29.

“They will be released to participate in peace talks” due to start in Addis Ababa on Feb. 7, Benjamin said.

The rebels have demanded the release of all 11 politicians detained by the Sudanese authorities in mid-December before negotiations can proceed. The government and insurgents signed a cease-fire on Jan. 23 to end five weeks of fighting that killed thousands of people and forced at least 860,000 more to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

Violence erupted in the world’s newest country last month with President Salva Kiir accusing his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup, a charge Machar denies. Fighting spread to other parts of South Sudan, pitting members of Kiir’s Dinka community against those of Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

South Sudan, which gained independence in July 2011, has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil reserves, according to data from BP Plc. Companies including China National Petroleum Corp. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. have evacuated employees from South Sudan because of the violence.

Talks Progress

A new round of talks will “definitely” take place as scheduled in Addis Ababa regardless of the status of the remaining detainees, Seyoum Mesfin, chief mediator for East African nations, said yesterday. The African Union, U.S., U.K., European Union and UN have called for the release of all detainees.

The cease-fire has mainly been respected even as there have been occasional “skirmishes,” according to Seyoum. The first team to monitor the truce will arrive in South Sudan tomorrow, he said.

A rebel spokesman accused government forces of attacking the rebels in oil-rich Unity state yesterday.

“Kiir’s government and its allies are not interested in” ending the fighting, Lul Ruai Koang said in an e-mailed statement. South Sudanese army spokesman Philip Aguer said he had no reports of fighting yesterday in Unity state.

There are no immediate plans for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops who helped Kiir’s government prevent a rebel advance on the capital, Juba, Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa told reporters in Addis Ababa today. The cease-fire accord calls for all forces to “redeploy and/or progressively withdraw” from combat zones. Ugandan troops, which currently remain in position, will retreat in line with the accord, Kutesa said.

“We have no plans yet, but we shall work on them,” he said. Some Ugandan troops will remain in South Sudan due to a pre-existing agreement to help combat an insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army, Kutesa said.

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