Mediators are encouraging representatives of South Sudan’s warring factions to sign a ceasefire agreement before this weekend to end weeks of deadly clashes in Africa’s newest nation, according to Dina Mufti, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman.
Mufti says the mediators will, however, continue with the peace negotiations if the two groups fail to sign a ceasefire agreement to stabilize the security situation and bring some relief to the tens of thousands of citizens and other foreign nationals displaced due to the conflict.
He says there appears to be a stalemate at the peace talks that is preventing the signing of an agreement after mediators failed to persuade both President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar to agree to an immediate ceasefire to end the violence.
President Kiir and Machar differed sharply on the release of detainees accused of plotting to overthrow the government in Juba.
Mufti says following consultations with the two leaders, President Kiir insisted that the detained officials should face a legal process, while Machar demands their release before signing any ceasefire agreement.
“Because of this the mediation is going but [difficult],” said Mufti. “But the chief mediator says that these preconditions some sort of delay so they are pressing on both sides to sign a ceasefire. The mediator says he will perhaps secure a ceasefire agreement within two days.”
Mufti says the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is implementing measures to expedite the peace negotiations and help resolve the conflict.
“IGAD is planning to secure a ceasefire within a few days perhaps within two or three days. If they don’t secure that the ceasefire they [will] settle for continuing the dialogue. Because the two delegations are here they are engaged and the mediators are also engaged and there is pressure coming from the international community, the United States and everybody [to end the conflict].”
Mufti says there seems to be a correlation between the military successes of the two warring factions in the ongoing conflict and how the dialogue progresses in neighboring Ethiopia.
But, some observers say both sides of South Sudan’s conflict are to blame for the grave humanitarian situation. Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes, and some South Sudanese citizens are trapped in neighboring Central African Republic (CAR), where that interim government in Bangui is also facing security challenges.
Mufti says both sides have expressed concern about the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, but have yet to agree to a ceasefire to end the conflict.
He says mediators and the rest of the international community including the African Union, The United Nations, IGAD and the country’s international partners, have urged the two groups to use the humanitarian situation as an incentive to sign a ceasefire agreement.
“It is true that there is grave humanitarian [situation], there is destruction of cities, the people are suffering and the situation is not auguring well for the people of South Sudan,” said Mufti. “There are these obstacles; the obstacle of the opposition putting preconditions of the release of the detainees, and the government also insisting that these are coup makers and the coup makers should be prosecuted.”
Clottey interview with Dina Mufti, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman