South Sudan Factions Given 15 Days to Reach Peace Accord

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar were given 15 days to reach an accord on ending violence in the country, after two days of talks brokered by regional leaders.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development is ready to impose sanctions or “directly intervene” in South Sudan if no agreement is achieved, the East African group, known as IGAD, said in a statement late yesterday after the meetings in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Talks focused on sharing power through steps including creating a post of prime minister.

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, formerly Kiir’s deputy and a Nuer, fled the capital and became the rebel leader.

IGAD’s chief mediator, Seyoum Mesfin, told reporters that the group is confident the accord can be reached within the specified period, because the leaders have agreed on most power-sharing issues, and need the extra time mainly to “bring on board” other constituencies.

The violence has left thousands of people dead and displaced almost 2 million, according to the United Nations. 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.

‘Area of Disagreement’

If the leaders can’t agree, IGAD countries, which include Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, are ready to “send troops, fight the intransigents and those violating, and protect the lives of the people of South Sudan,” Seyoum said.

The parties agreed yesterday to observe an immediate cessation of hostilities and stop recruiting civilians or risk facing action that may include asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo, according to the IGAD statement.

Rebels said the government allied with Sudanese militias violated the agreement today by attacking at Tor and Hofra in Unity state. The claim was denied by the government. “There is no fighting that’s been reported today,” army spokesman Philip Aguer said by phone from Juba, the capital.

Machar said in an interview late yesterday that there’s agreement on “a text to establish the transitional government of national unity, particularly identifying the powers of the president and powers of the prime minister.”

South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth, part of the government’s negotiating team, said there’s still no agreement on the powers of the prime minister during a transitional period. “We cannot give the prime minister executive power,” he said. “This is the area of disagreement.”

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