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August 04, 2014

S. Sudan Leaders Resume Talks

by Gabe Joselow

Warring factions in South Sudan say they are committed to forging a peace deal to end more than seven months of fighting, as government and rebel delegates sit down for another round of talks in Addis Ababa.

An early sign of tension emerged Monday, as the government criticized mediators for not enforcing past agreements.

At least 10,000 people have been killed and more than one million displaced in South Sudan since the conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his political rival Riek Machar descended into fighting and inter-ethnic violence in December.

Past cease-fire agreements between the two sides mediated by the East African group IGAD have been violated soon after being signed.

Speaking at the opening of the talks, a representative of South Sudan's government, Nhial Deng Nhial, blamed IGAD mediators for failing to hold the opposition, known as the SPLM/A in Opposition, accountable for past violations.

“Unfortunately, we are yet to see any of those consequences materialize.  If anything, the lack of consequences has only emboldened the SPLM/A in Opposition to step up its armed campaign against government forces,” said Nhial.

The two sides have blamed each other for the collapse of previous cease-fire deals and the continuation of fighting that has centered around South Sudan's Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.

Opposition representative Dhieu Mathok defended the role of IGAD, which has sent teams to South Sudan to monitor the conflict.

“The SPLM [opposition] is committed to peaceful resolution of the conflict in South Sudan.  I want to reiterate our confidence in the mediators,” said Mathok.

Another key item on the agenda is the formation of a transitional government of national unity.  A previous agreement called for the new government to be established by August 10.  That deadline is looking increasingly unlikely to be met.

Famine looms

​​Meanwhile, regional mediators warned time is running out for a country which aid agencies say is on the brink of a famine.

Aid agencies say South Sudan could be headed for the worst famine since the mid-1980s, when malnutrition swept through East Africa and killed over a million people.

Four million people - or more than a third of the country's population - are now believed to be facing emergency levels of food security. 

Additional information on famine was provided by Reuters.