Peace negotiations between South Sudan’s warring factions will resume Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, according to Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Dina Mufti.
Officials say after Monday’s opening ceremony of the resumption of the peace talks, the negotiations will be moved to Debre Zeit, a town 45 kilometers south of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
Mufti says both factions have claimed to abide by the cessation of hostilities agreement despite reports of clashes between the two groups in several parts of the country.
“Both of them are saying they are observing the agreement of cessation of hostilities, however, there are different positions... While the opposition is talking about the difference within the SPLM [ruling party], the government side is talking about the opposition staging a coup d’état. These are the major differences that have to be fixed during the substantive discussions and that also be taken up,” said Mufti.
Mufti says the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional group that organized the peace negotiations, will be monitoring the cessation of hostilities agreement.
“The monitoring team has been dispatched to South Sudan and they have established themselves in [some] areas, where there would be an institution for monitoring the cessation of hostilities or ceasefire. There would be a monitoring and verification group on the ground, and this is also to be strengthened, actually this is where we have also seen progress,” said Mufti.
The factions signed a cessation of hostilities agreement on January 4 following international pressure. The conflict in South Sudan has so far left over 1,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.
The government released seven of the 11 political detainees it accused of plotting to overthrow the administration in Juba. Mufti says the opposition has indicated the released detainees will be part of its delegation to the peace talks on Monday.
“The opposition side is saying the released prisoners are the ones that should also be part of their team. Whether they will be part of the opposition camp to the negotiations is something that we are going to [wait] to see,” said Mufti. “Through the mediator the issues of the ones who were not released is also under discussion ... and hopefully, that case will also be behind us very soon.”
Mufti expressed hope the resumption of the negotiations could expedite the peace process to end months of conflict in South Sudan.
“I am very much optimistic because at least both sides seem to see the need for peaceful settlement, for political dialogue, and both sides seem to be committed to it despite the sporadic fighting here and there,” said Mufti.