South Sudan Leaders to Meet Again on Accord as Talks Founder

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar will meet again later this month to negotiate a power-sharing deal after failing to resolve key issues over five days of talks, Machar said.

The two didn’t agree on the structure and leadership roles of a proposed transitional government as well as a formula for power sharing, he told reporters Monday. “It’s a partial agreement because we’ve not yet resolved some of the critical issues,” Machar said.

The parties signed two documents that outlined areas of agreement and disagreement, South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters. “All the other outstanding issues that are attached to the document are issues we will come and discuss at the next session,” he said.

Conflict erupted in December 2013 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, Kiir’s deputy until July 2013 and a Nuer, fled the capital and became the rebel leader. Fighting has left tens of thousands of people dead, according to the United Nations.

Deadline Dates

The parties will meet on Feb. 20 and have until March 5 to reach a comprehensive deal that will lead to the formation of a transitional government, said Seyoum Mesfin, the top envoy from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development bloc mediating the crisis. The East African group of nations and the African Union have threatened to sanction those who obstruct the peace process or violate a truce agreed in January 2014.

The parties differ on issues including the structure and powers of the president and two deputies during the transition, the composition of the Council of Ministers, the number of ministerial votes needed to pass measures in the council, the make-up of an expanded parliament, and when to implement a federal system, according to a copy of the document signed by Machar and Kiir that was e-mailed to Bloomberg by Puoch Riek Deng, who backed the rebellion.

“There is no progress at all,” Deng, a spokesman for a rebel aid agency, said by phone from Ethiopia on Monday. “The power issues are still the stumbling block.” How to deal with a fractured military will be the responsibility of a committee to be set up when a permanent cease-fire takes hold, according to the document.

Truce Recommitment

The lack of a plan for reintegrating and professionalizing the armed forces suggests lessons from a 2005 peace deal by South Sudanese rebels with Sudan may not have been learned by IGAD, said Harry Verhoeven, a professor of government at Georgetown University and a specialist on the Horn of Africa.

“The failure then paved the road for sequential breakaways by different commanders and one small rebellion after another, until of course the big crack in 2013,” he said. “It’s highly questionable that this will lead to a serious, national army that does not terrorize its population.”

Under the main accord, Kiir and Machar agreed to form a joint administration before July 10 that will last for 30 months. The parties also recommitted to the January 2014 truce that’s been repeatedly broken by both sides.

Subsequent violations should be reported to the African Union and UN Security Council for “further action,” the parties agreed. An independent court of South Sudanese and Africans will be set up to prosecute those with “greatest responsibility” for atrocities committed during the conflict, according to the accord.

Sanctions Threat

IGAD leaders have given the parties further opportunity to negotiate rather than implement sanctions because they need time to consider a regional power-sharing proposal made last week, Seyoum told reporters. “Imposing a solution which they don’t buy may not hold,” he said.

One of IGAD’s members, Uganda, has had troops protecting Kiir’s government in the capital, Juba, since shortly after fighting broke out.

Even if the deal is struck it probably won’t solve the crisis as power-sharing between Machar and Kiir led to the war, Verhoeven said in an e-mailed response to questions. “This deal doesn’t bode very well for peace, development, human rights and security in the long-term,” he said. Pressure from the U.S. and China for IGAD to “get tough” with the parties may have reduced because of Uganda’s influence and as “a lot of the killing has subsided” he said.

‘High Time’

The leaders should respond to the next IGAD deadline, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at the signing ceremony. “Failure to do so will have a grave consequence to all of us and specifically to the leaders of South Sudan so I think they will recognize that this is a high moment,” he said.

The rebel movement wants 45 percent of ministerial positions rather than the 30 percent Kiir’s faction is offering. The president is resisting demands to concede powers to an opposition leader, according to Machar.

“I hope he will, but the fact that this is not contained in the document we’ve signed it means there is still some reluctance from his side,” he said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE