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South Sudan: 'Don't Get Your Hopes Up,' Analyst Says

  • Philip Aleu

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (L) and opposition leader Riek Machar exchange an agreement signed on May 9 in Addis Ababa, recommitting to a ceasefire deal signed in January but repeatedly violated.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (L) and opposition leader Riek Machar exchange an agreement signed on May 9 in Addis Ababa, recommitting to a ceasefire deal signed in January but repeatedly violated.

South Sudanese should not get their hopes up that President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar will hold to this month's pledge to set up a transitional government within 60 days, an analyst at a respected Juba think tank said Thursday.

"I don't think that there is that commitment that would deliver for the 60-day period that was given," Sudd Institute researcher Augustino Ting Mayai told South Sudan in Focus," and until we see that, I don't think South Sudanese should be hopeful."

Mr. Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed on June 10 in Addis Ababa to a 60-day time frame for setting up a transitional government, and to allow relier workers unimpeded access to people in need.

Ting said the June 10 pledge "is rhetoric, another understanding that could basically fall through."

The Sudd Institute analyst was speaking days after the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) adjourned peace talks for South Sudan. Opposition representatives failed to show up for the latest round, complaining that the negotiations were not representative of victims of the conflict, such as the 1.5 million displaced.

Even prior to the adjournment, commitments IGAD has received from the combatants have had little impact. Fighting has raged on and the numbers of the displaced have increased, regardless of a ceasefire deal signed in January and repeated pledges made since that date.

The lack of progress at the talks, and their unexpected adjournment, have led some South Sudanese to call for IGAD to be replaced by another mediating team. Ting did not agree with that perspective.

"I think IGAD still has the leverage, given that it is still backed by the international community," he said. "It can make its case through the U.N. to bring the two parties together, to negotiate and agree to whatever mechanisms have been laid out."

But, he conceded, IGAD may need "to work harder than perhaps it has been now, given that the two parties are not necessarily cooperating."

Ting said threatening the two sides with sanctions if they refuse to return to the negotiating table "is a good way to go," even though U.S. sanctions already levied against two South Sudanese officials have had little effect.

"The U.S. sanctions that were tabled against two military officials in South Sudan don't have any robust impact on the country or on the political leaders," Ting said.

"I would say the U.S. wasted its energy -- but it could be a sign that there's more that's coming," he said.

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