Representatives of South Sudan’s warring factions will begin their first face-to-face talks on Tuesday following an agreement on the agenda and format of the peace negotiations, according to Dina Mufti, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman.
Mufti says a ceasefire will be on the agenda on Tuesday as well as several other issues.
“Definitely, a ceasefire will be on top of the agenda, the release of the detainees. There are some people who have been detained by the government side, the opening of the humanitarian corridor, because there was huge dislocation of the population, and other pertinent issues,” said Mufti.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, backed by member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is tasked with mediating the talks between the two warring factions.
So far the two sides have failed to adhere to a ceasefire demanded by the regional bloc, the African Union and the international community.
“The international community is watching [the factions], the South Sudanese people are watching them because these people are yearning for peace, for stability,” said Mufti. “These are people who have emerged from decades of war and destruction and I think they can’t afford to come back to that cycle.”
Mufti says the two sides have demonstrated a willingness to engage in dialogue as part of efforts to end weeks of conflict in South Sudan.
“That is why they were both working on Sunday and yesterday [Monday], and that is a sign of having enthusiasm for it because they have been working out the terms of reference, modalities, and so agendas were formulated that emerged from the proxy talks,” said Mufti.
He says regional foreign ministers from IGAD member states including Kenya and Ethiopia played key roles as part of the proxy talks that led to talks between the warring factions.
South Sudan’s ongoing violence erupted after President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, accused former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup. Macher, who is in hiding, denied the accusation.