By Sarah McGregor and William Davison
Jan 22, 2015
South Sudan’s warring factions agreed to begin reconciling the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party and end a civil war that has left tens of thousands of people dead.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, Chairman of the SPLM-In Opposition Riek Machar and Deng Alor Kuol, the head of a delegation of former political detainees, signed the deal Wednesday in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, according to an e-mailed statement from Crisis Management Initiative, a conflict-resolution organization based in Helsinki, Finland.
At least 2 million people have been driven from their homes since fighting broke out in December 2013 between soldiers loyal to Kiir and rebels allied with his former deputy, Machar. Both sides accuse each other of violating a truce accord signed a year ago and multiple agreements to end hostilities.
“This seems like a self-serving document designed to solve the present crisis by handing power back to the people that caused the crisis to begin with,” John Young, author of a 2012 book on the 2005 peace agreement that led to South Sudan becoming independent from Sudan in 2011, said in an e-mail Thursday. “The authors of this document haven’t begun to get to the roots of the SPLM’s authoritarianism and militarism.”
Leaders from Tanzania’s ruling Party of the Revolution will consult with Kiir, Machar and Kuol on the “structure of the leadership of the reunified SPLM,” according to the accord, a copy of which was e-mailed by Ann Norman, the managing director from Norman Communications who’s handling public relations for Machar.
The signatories recognize the need for a transitional government in which the SPLM groups and other political parties will “participate proportionally in order to end the war and establish sustainable peace,” according to the agreement.
Rebels allied with Machar will probably reject the agreement as there are no provisions for Kiir to be removed as head of the SPLM, Puoch Riek Deng, a member of Machar’s opposition movement, said in an e-mailed response to questions.
“Our key demand is the stepping down of Kiir whose hands are full of blood,” he said. “Without this, the SPLM will remain divided and disintegrated.”
The accord commits a previously “militarist and sectarian” SPLM to democratize and “open up a space for achieving a political environment that promotes genuine political pluralism.”
Any SPLM member found guilty by a “competent” legal body of “gross human rights violations and abuses” during the conflict will be barred from public office within the party and government, according to the document.
South Sudan’s election commission announced this month it’s going ahead with national polls set for June 30 even as fighting continues. Opposition parties in the capital, Juba, on Thursday began legal action over the election date, rejecting it as unconstitutional.
Elections will only occur if there is no power-sharing deal agreed in separate talks mediated by an East African regional bloc, said South Sudan’s presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny.
“The only thing that can cancel the election is if a peace agreement is signed and the parties in conflict can start implementing the peace agreement and form a transitional government,” he said by phone from Juba on Thursday afternoon.