Talks to end South Sudan's conflict appeared in jeopardy Friday, as President Salva Kiir canceled a planned trip to the site of the talks in Ethiopia and the government recalled its negotiating team.
Cabinet Affairs Minister Martin Elias Lomoro said officials want to determine whether there is a split in the rebel camp. Two rebel generals announced this week they are longer allied with rebel leader Riek Machar and are setting up their own movement.
If the president is going to go to Addis Ababa, Lomoro said, "he must go with clear mind as to who he is going to meet and negotiate with."
One of the defecting rebel generals, Gathoth Gatkuoth, condemned both Machar and President Kiir in an interview with VOA. The general said the two leaders are taking part in peace talks in Addis Ababa not for the good of the South Sudanese people, but because they want to secure their positions in a future government.
South Sudan's civil war erupted in December 2013, a few months after President Kiir fired Machar as vice president. The fighting has killed thousands and displaced an estimated 1.6 million South Sudanese.
United Nations and U.S. officials have expressed frustration with the slowness of the peace talks, and the East African bloc IGAD, which is mediating the talks, is pressuring the sides to sign a peace deal by the August 17 deadline.