JUBA, South Sudan, Oct 22 – Regional leaders Wednesday met in South Sudan’s capital, Juba in a move that appears to herald a breakthrough in the country’s peace process.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ethiopian Premier Hailemariam Desalegn and Uganda’s Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda were briefed by the host President Salva Kiir on the progress of the talks.
The Inter-government Agency on Development (IGAD) mini-summit comes in the wake of significant progress in negotiations in Addis Ababa and Tanzania. The upshot of the meetings was a broad agreement on ending the conflict, resolving the remaining humanitarian crisis, and securing the future of South Sudan.
Delegates of the three rival groups of the South Sudanese ruling party met in Arusha this month in an intra-party dialogue process to try to come up with the framework in a process hosted by the Tanzanian ruling party in Arusha.
The factions of the ruling party, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) of President Kiir, SPLM-in-Opposition and SPLM of former detainees signed a framework agreement which aims at addressing the root causes of the conflict.
There remain a number of outstanding issues. Nonetheless, it was felt by IGAD that the recent progress in mediation justified a meeting of Heads of State to discuss how best to remove remaining barriers to peace.
In a communique released after the four-hour closed door meeting at Juba State House, the leaders noted with appreciation the progress in the peace process and urged the involved parties to continue mediation until all outstanding issues were thrashed out.
The joint communique said “At the Juba consultations, a breakthrough has been achieved on the outstanding issues to be finalized at the next IGAD summit to be convened next week”.
The IGAD regional leaders congratulated President Kiir and Dr Machar for their visionary leadership in resolving the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.
The leaders also encouraged the IGAD special envoys on South Sudan to continue mediation until the crisis in the country was resolved.
President Kenyatta attended the meeting in his dual capacities as Chair of the East African community, and IGAD’s rapporteur for the resolution of the conflict.
Before the mini-summit, consultations were held with the former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar who leads SPLM-in-Opposition on the key concerns in relation to the outcomes of the Bahir Dar session.
During the session, participants endorsed the First Draft of the Text Arising from the 25 August Protocol and Stakeholders’ Positions as a basis for the negotiations.
South Sudan’s civil conflict, pitting the government against an alliance of rebel forces under the command of his former Vice-President, erupted in Juba in December 2013, and gradually spread across the country.
The UN estimates that more than a million people have been displaced in the ten months of fighting, and at least 10,000 killed.
Regional and continental bodies, among them IGAD, the East African Community and the African Union, have sought to restore peace. Ethiopia hosted the main mediation effort, and two previous ceasefires have been agreed.
President Kenyatta has continuously affirmed Kenya’s commitment to a speedy resolution to the South Sudan conflict and a peaceful Somalia.