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Group Petitions AU to Mediate South Sudan Negotiations

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir attends a session during the 25th Extraordinary Summit of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on South Sudan in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, March 13, 2014.
The International Friends of South Sudan, a Kenyan-based NGO has called on the African Union to take over the mediation of peace talks between the government in Juba and rebels allied to former vice president Riek Machar, after expressing concern that the international community has been too slow to help resolve the crisis.

Executive secretary Simon Kamau says the group has also petitioned the United Nations to send international peacekeepers to South Sudan to prevent any possibility of genocide following the recent massacre of citizens who sought refuge at a UN compound.

“We believe the United Nations must as a matter of urgency send a much larger peacekeeping force in South Sudan to protect civilians and to protect property,” said Kamau. “We believe that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon must not let the situation in South Sudan judge him as the Secretary General during whose tenure South Sudan experienced a Rwanda style genocide while everybody was watching.”

The group urged the African Union to establish a committee of former heads of state and government to put pressure on the warring factions to end the conflict.

“We believe the AU can set up a panel of prominent statesmen and this panel approaches both President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar and actually dictate upon them that this nonsensical killing must come to an end,” said Kamau. “We are hoping that this could probably make much more sense than people sitting in hotels in Addis Ababa while they are hiding cards under the table.”

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African regional bloc has been mediating the peace negotiations between the warring factions in neighboring Ethiopia.

But, Kamau says IGAD cannot be trusted to be an impartial arbitrator since, he argues, some members of the regional bloc have taken sides in the conflict. He says the regional bloc has failed in its mediation efforts to help resolve the conflict since the killing of unarmed civilians has yet to be stopped.

“Some of the IGAD member states have already been participating in this conflict by way of sending armed forces unfortunately to support one side in this conflict in South Sudan,” said Kamau.

“This makes IGAD partial,” said Kama. “So how do we expect a partial IGAD to play an impartial role in the mediation talks? IGAD cannot be seen to pretend that they can meaningfully bring the two warring sides together when some of the member states are actually are part and parcel in this conflict.”

Both sides have accused each other of abandoning a cessation of hostilities agreement signed to protect lives and property.

Another round of peace negotiations resumed in Addis Ababa on Monday after the government in Juba released four political detainees accused of plotting to overthrow the administration in Juba – a key demand of the rebels at the peace talks. The government expressed hope that the release of the detainees could help expedite the peace process to end the conflict.
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