South Sudan’s negotiators are once again gathering in Ethiopia to try to solve the 18 month old conflict dividing the world’s youngest country. The warring factions only have one month left to form an internationally-mandated power-sharing government.
Delegations from South Sudan’s government, the rebel opposition and the former detainees are meeting to find a solution to the crisis sparked a year and a half ago when President Salva Kiir had a political fallout with his former deputy, Riek Machar.
South Sudan is expected to form a transitional government of unity by July 9 – the country’s fourth anniversary of independence. But with just one month to go, it is not clear this deadline will be met.
The last round of talks ended in early March without any kind of agreement and the current agenda has to be finalized.
Monday’s talks amounted to consultations on ways forward and a new negotiating mechanism also known as ‘IGAD Plus’. IGAD is the East African Bloc that has been mediating talks throughout the conflict.IGAD Plus would now include the African Union, European Union, Britain, the United States, Norway and China as new mediators.
Lead mediator, Seyoum Mesfin of IGAD, underscored at the last round of talks that the fighting parties must not fail to find a lasting peaceful solution:
“The whole world is watching the conflict in South Sudan. And call on IGAD, the AU and the United Nations and all international partners to join us in calling for an end to this conflict now.”
Several cease-fire agreements have been signed and broken since January 2014.UN Security Council approving sanctions also failed to stop the hostilities.
Fighting has flared ahead of these talks especially in the major oil-rich Unity State.
Thousands have died, more than two million displaced - 300,000 people alone have taken refuge in Ethiopia.