JUBA - South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar and other opposition party leaders have refused to sign the latest draft of a Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) to end a five-year civil war.
Machar and President Salva Kiir signed a cease-fire and power-sharing deal last month in Khartoum, but put off making a decision on the contentious issue of the number of states and their boundaries. One delegate at the talks Monday night confirmed the issue has been referred to the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) heads of states to make a final decision.
Rita Lopidia, a member of the South Sudan women's coalition, said after the talks resumed last weekend the parties could not agree on Article 4 of the revitalized 2015 peace deal because each party insisted on its previous position regarding states and their boundaries.
"The opposition, including the government, have not agreed on some of these articles that have been introduced. That is why it has been referred to the IGAD heads of state to look into it. And a letter has been drafted by the special envoy today, " Lopidia told South Sudan in Focus.
Lopidia said the parties did make progress on other disputed issues, including the responsibility of the first vice president, naming of the new five ministries, and the National Constitution Review Commission and issues related to the judiciary reforms.
The parties have held several weeks of talks in the Sudanese capital in an attempt to reach a comprehensive peace agreement to end a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
Lopidia said Monday that despite the drawn-out peace negotiations and the challenges that remained during the latest round of talks, all parties have shown a commitment to achieving lasting peace in the country.
"It has been a very tedious process and a very difficult one. But eventually after a very tough time and tough negotiations, parties have really reached some sort of compromise to get to where it is today. But still a lot of work needs to be done because there still is a need to build trust among the parties," Lopidia said.
'Confusing peace process'
A spokesman for the SPLM In Opposition said the group is eager to end the civil war. But Mabior Garand De Mabior told VOA the government has not been negotiating in good faith.
"It has been a very confusing peace process for many people. I can only tell you what we know as the facts. We are dealing with Chapter 1 and 2 of the revitalized ARCSS and are waiting for IGAD to give us direction on what we are going to do with the rest of the chapters," Mabior told VOA.
The parties signed an agreement in June aimed at ending the fighting, but Machar opposed a proposal to have three different capitals in order to distribute power.
In 2015, the Kiir administration changed the number of original states from 10 to 32.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, who on Monday met in Washington with President Donald Trump, said he and other IGAD leaders are committed "together with our brothers and sisters to ensure that peace and stability returns to South Sudan."
In an exclusive interview with VOA, Kenyatta said, "We will try anything that will achieve that because for most of us in the region, our greatest concern is not about the leadership of the country, but to ensure the people of South Sudan, who have had to endure untold suffering for many years after struggling to achieve their independence," are able to be free.
He said IGAD leaders will continue to pressure the leadership of South Sudan to acknowledge that it is their responsibility to "ensure they come together and find a framework that works to restore peace, stability, and human dignity to the people of South Sudan."
VOA's Esther Githui Ewart and James Butty contributed to this report.