South Sudan’s Warring Factions Discuss Power-Sharing at Summit

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, held talks as part of the latest effort by East African leaders to broker a deal that will end more than 10 months of fighting.

The pair met late yesterday during a regional summit that started yesterday in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. They discussed how to share power between the presidency and a proposed new office of prime minister, as well as a rebel suggestion for a federal system, said Taban Deng Gai, the head of Machar’s delegation. Talks are due to continue today.

“Even if white smoke doesn’t come out at this time, it’s a good beginning,” Deng Gai said in an interview.

Conflict erupted in December in Africa’s newest nation when a power struggle within the ruling party turned violent. After Kiir arrested rivals for allegedly plotting a coup and ethnic Nuer accused soldiers loyal to the president of targeting them, commanders rebelled in three states. Machar, a Nuer, fled the capital, Juba, and became the leader of a rebel delegation at peace talks overseen by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD.

The violence has left thousands of people dead and displaced almost 2 million, according to the UN. Fighting has resumed in recent weeks in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity states as seasonal rains have eased, intensifying UN concern that there may be further casualties and a famine.

The regional peace process is almost “at the end of the line” as South Sudan’s leaders haven’t sought a political solution, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said yesterday at the opening of the meeting, attended by all seven IGAD heads of state and Machar.

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