Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb 1 – After 13 months of fighting and six failed ceasefires, diplomats are being forced to accept that any deal to end the war in South Sudan will, at best, result in a return to the status quo that precipitated the carnage in the first place.
The latest peace proposal drafted this week in Addis Ababa by regional bloc IGAD and seen by AFP leaves Salva Kiir as president and re-installs rebel leader Riek Machar as his deputy, a position he held until July 2013 when his sacking planted the seed of a war that erupted five months later.
Hopes of formulating a comprehensive peace deal that addresses South Sudan’s underlying problems and tribal divisions have faded.
“That moment has passed,” a European diplomat involved in the talks said.
“More and more it’s moving towards an elite compromise, but at least that will stop the killing,” said another Ethiopia-based diplomat.
Regional and international peace efforts have repeatedly squeezed out promises of peace from Kiir and Machar, but each one has been broken within days, if not hours.
South Sudan’s Sudd Institute think-tank describes the talks as “frustratingly slow”, gloomily recalling a “plethora” of deals that had been “subsequently dishonoured” by one side or the other.
“The two parties will sign anything to get out of Addis, but they have never given up on the idea of solving this on the battlefield,” a diplomat said.