By William Davison, August 27, 2014
South Sudan’s rebels rejected a power-sharing deal proposed by EastAfrican leaders to end an eight-month conflict that has killed thousands of people in the world’s newest nation.
The proposal by the seven-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, calls for President Salva Kiir to remain in office at least until elections that should be held 60 days before the end of a 2 1/2 year transitional period. Rebels led by former Vice President Riek Machar would nominate a prime minister that Kiir would have to approve, according to the draft agreement.
“It’s not the way to get peace in the country,” chief rebel negotiator Taban Deng Gai said today in a phone interview from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where talks have been held. “We believe they’ve imposed Salva to be president for life. We’re not going to sign it.”
Fighting erupted in South Sudan in December when Kiir accused Machar and other senior government officials of plotting a coup, a charge they deny. The conflict in the oil-producing nation has forced at least 1.5 million to flee their homes and left the country on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations. About 102,000 displaced people are sheltering at 10 UN bases, the world body said in an Aug. 25 e-mailed statement.
The UN is investigating the crash of one of its helicopters that killed three Russians yesterday. The rebels have denied government accusations that they shot it down.
Kiir and East African leaders set a 45-day deadline for the formation of the transitional coalition government after a meeting on Aug. 25. A previous deadline expired Aug. 10. Negotiations will resume on Sept. 13, IGAD said today in an e-mailed statement.
Several rounds of negotiations in Addis Ababa haven’t stemmed the violence, and without punishments for earlier failings, the new proposal may fail to make a breakthrough, Solomon Dersso, an analyst at the Institute for Security Studies, said by phone from Addis Ababa.
“It’s not clear if that’s going to move anything forward at this stage,” he said. “And it’s also not clear what IGAD plans to do if this thing is going to run into same kind of difficulties that negotiations have encountered to this point in time.”
The UN Mission in South Sudan said its MI-8 helicopter crashed 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, which has been wracked by fighting. The incident occurred three days after rebels detained six IGAD truce monitors 35 kilometers southwest of the city.
One of the monitors died of a “heart attack” during the abduction and those responsible would “bear the consequences,” IGAD said in a statement.
The European Union and the U.S. have placed a travel ban and asset freeze on the main rebel commander in Unity state, Peter Gadet, for truce violations, as well as other officers from both sides.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the signing of a deal on Aug. 23 to implement a cease-fire agreed in January that has failed to prevent clashes.
He called “on both parties to immediately implement the agreement and uphold their commitment to establishing a Transitional Government of National Unity,” according to a statement e-mailed by the UN on Aug. 25. The accord plans for the creation of a buffer zone between forces, aid corridors, and increased monitoring of flashpoints.
Rebel forces have been responsible for all but one of five truce violations investigated by IGAD monitors over the past month, the Djibouti-based organization said on its website yesterday.
The UN Security Council and the African Union have said they’re ready to consider sanctions on individuals who block the peace process. IGAD repeated a similar threat on Aug. 23 and said sanctioned individuals would be barred from future governments.