News / Africa

South Sudan Rebels Reject Plan to Unblock Peace Talks

Head of the rebel delegation General Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 8, 2014.
Head of the rebel delegation General Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 8, 2014.
South Sudanese rebels turned down on Wednesday a government plan to end a dispute over detainees and unblock peace talks aimed at halting violence that has killed at least 1,000 people in the world's youngest state.

Three weeks of fighting, often along ethnic faultlines, has pitted President Salva Kiir's SPLA government forces against the rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar and brought the oil exporting nation close to civil war.

Both sides met face-to-face for a first time on Tuesday in Addis Ababa in a bid to agree a ceasefire but faced new delays after Kiir refused a rebel demand to release 11 detainees, who were arrested last year over an alleged coup plot.

On Wednesday, the government proposed to shift the peace talks to the United Nations compound in Juba, enabling the 11 detainees to attend the negotiations during the day and return to custody in the evening.

"They seem to have rejected that,'' South Sudan's  presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said.

Taban Deng Gai, the head of the opposition delegation at the Addis Ababa talks, said Juba was not a good venue. "I don't think that will be accepted from this side because Juba is a big prison,'' he said.

The fighting is the worst in South Sudan since it won independence from Sudan in 2011 in a peace deal that ended one of Africa's longest civil wars. It has also displaced over 200,000 people and cut oil exports.

Both sides on Wednesday reported fighting around Bor, north of Juba.

Garang boys
Peter Biar Ajak, Executive Director of the Juba-based Center for Strategic Analyses and Research, said most of the 11 detainees were not outright Machar supporters, but part of a group made up of ex-comrades of the late Sudanese liberation hero John Garang, known as the "Garang Boys''.

"You are not going to have a lasting solution without this group being involved,'' Ajak told Reuters by phone, adding that Machar would need the backing of the group to have any hope of gaining wide support outside his own Nuer ethnic group.

The rebels had initially demanded the release of the detainees before the talks, but have since agreed to negotiate a ceasefire and the status of the detainees.\

"It is a decision that we will have to make as a group,''  Mabior said when asked whether Machar's delegation would withdraw from the talks if the detainees were not freed.

Both sides were due to discuss their positions on Wednesday, but this did not take place, because the delegates were awaiting the return From Juba of envoys of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional grouping of east African nations that initiated the talks.

The envoys had travelled to Juba where they tried in vain to persuade Kiir to free the detainees, and arrived back in Addis on Wednesday evening.

Fighting near Bor

Lul Ruai Koang, military spokesman for the opposition, told journalists in Addis that rebel forces had attacked government troops near the town of Bor, near the capital.

Koang said his troops were near Juba and would await a command from the rebels' political leaders to attack the town if the peace talks break down. "We are ready, and once we are told what to do we'll get into action,'' he said.

In Juba, the government's military spokesman Philip Aguer said there had been fighting around Bor, and elsewhere, including the Upper Nile state where some of the country's oil fields are located.

Politician David Yau Yau, who has in the past led a rebellion against South Sudan's army in the vast Jonglei state had joined the government troops, Aguer said. Yau Yau was not immediately available to comment.

The lack of progress in the peace talks has unnerved foreign powers, who worry that South Sudan could spiral into full-blown civil war.

China, the biggest investor in South Sudan's oil industry through state-owned Chinese oil giants National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and Sinopec, called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire. The unrest has forced the government to cut oil production by about a fifth.

All of landlocked South Sudan's oil is piped through its northern neighbor, providing vital hard currency in transit fees for Khartoum. Oil major BP estimates that South Sudan holds sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest reserves.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
January 09, 2014 5:21 PM
There's no peace if kirr not step down cowboy

by: Stephen Tor Gany from: Juba
January 08, 2014 11:12 PM
We really need a peaceful solution for this situation, we had been in UNMISS now for the last three weeks, I urge all the leaders from both sides to accept immediately the conditions given from each party.

by: Ulo Kenneth from: Imo state Nigeria
January 08, 2014 8:06 PM
i wonder what benefit people derive by ingaging in war. In every war, number of lives are lost, property distroyed & every afare scatered & unorganised in mater that should have resolved peacefully. I call on all the parties involved to follow the line of peace. That's no alternative to peace.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs