By William Davison and Mading Ngor J
An accord to halt fighting in South Sudan hasn’t been signed because rebels are demanding the release of leading opponents detained by the government before they agree to a truce.
“We’ve agreed on a cessation document but rebels are reluctant to sign it,” South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei said in an interview today at the negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. “They’re connecting the signing with the release of the detainees, which is not in place.”
Violence erupted in South Sudan on Dec. 15 after President Salva Kiir accused former deputy Riek Machar, whom he fired in July, of trying to stage a coup. Machar denies the charge. The dispute escalated into clashes between members of Kiir’s ethnic Dinka community and Machar’s Nuer group. Peace talks between negotiators from both sides are into their third week in Addis Ababa.
Rebels consulted with East African mediators today about the 11 politicians held without charge on suspicion of plotting Kiir’s overthrow and may hold direct talks with the government tomorrow on the issue, Hussein Mar Nyuot, a spokesman for the insurgents, said today by phone from Addis Ababa. They will only sign the cease-fire accord when an agreement on the detainees has also been reached, he said.
The suspects should be part of a “Grand National Peace and Political Dialogue” after a cease-fire is in place, Kiir said yesterday, according to an e-mailed copy of his speech. The U.S., United Nations and the European Union have called for the prisoners to be released to help the peace process.
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