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Is South Sudan's Fractured SPLM Party Poised to Reunite?

  • Philip Aleu

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) and rebel leader Riek Machar signed an agreement in May 2014 and are said to be close to agreeing to reunite the fractured SPLM.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) and rebel leader Riek Machar signed an agreement in May 2014 and are said to be close to agreeing to reunite the fractured SPLM.

Different factions of South Sudan's SPLM party said Tuesday they are on the brink of signing an agreement in Arusha, Tanzania, to reunite the party and put South Sudan back on the path of peace and development.

Akol Paul Kordit, who is a member of the government delegation at the talks in Arusha, told reporters at Juba airport that the different factions of the party have sorted out differences that came to a head 13 months ago, when a political row between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, boiled over into violent conflict.

Kordit said "significant progress has been made in the talks," which began in October.

"General agreement has been reached by all parties to the talks. This is a great achievement," he said.

Kordit said President Kiir, Machar and former SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum, who is the leader of a group of politicians jailed in December 2013 and accused of plotting to oust the president, will review a draft agreement in Arusha on Wednesday. Kordit said some issues still need to be ironed out but he was hopeful the agreement would be signed.

Abdulrahman Omari Kinana, the secretary general of Tanzania's ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, which is mediating the talks in Arusha, said the SPLM factions have agreed to most of the points in the agreement, including the political and structural make-up of the party that overwhelmingly dominates politics in South Sudan.

“Ninety-five percent of the document has been agreed, only five percent is pending. This five percent will need the consultation, the advice and the wisdom of the leaders of the region," he said.

"We have no reason to doubt that tomorrow the three groups will sign an agreement to reunite the SPLM family and again take the leadership of this great country and the great people of South Sudan to its destiny,” he added.

Kinana said the SPLM leaders have "...discussed the genesis of the crisis on their own and they came up with solutions between themselves."

But a message on the Twitter feed of the government of South Sudan appeared to cast doubt on an agreement being imminent.

The government did not respond to a request for clarification of the tweet.

The Arusha talks are separate from stalled peace negotiations for South Sudan that are being mediated by IGAD, the East African regional bloc. Those talks were adjourned indefinitely last month. An IGAD summit on South Sudan is set to be held on January 30 in Addis Ababa, on the sidelines of a meeting of the African Union.

Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this report.

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