– Hard drinking –
Earning a reputation as slow talkers and hard drinkers, the South Sudanese delegations at the European Union-funded talks held in luxury hotels in Ethiopia have already cost at least 20 million euros ($22 million), according to diplomatic sources.
Talks were first held at the plush Sheraton Hotel, an imposing chunk of beige stone on a hillside in the Ethiopian capital. Delegates could choose from 11 restaurants and bars, bathe in a pool that plays music underwater, visit the spa or simply enjoy the indoor fountains, decorative ponds and mini-palm trees. Rooms cost around $300 a night.
As the bills piled up as fast as the bodies back home and progress proved glacial, the talks were moved to a nearby hotel where rooms are half the price. Delegates continue to claim a 220 euro ($250) per diem for attending.
“The waste has been enormous,” a European diplomat said, signalling that patience was wearing thin.
“One could be forgiven for having the impression that they’re interested in the per diem, the luxury hotel, the bar and the minibar, enjoying the nightclubs of Addis Ababa, and not peace,” said another European diplomat observing the talks.
“They don’t seem to have any sense of urgency or responsibility to the people on the ground who are dying. They have displayed total contempt for their own people.”
No overall death toll for the war has been kept by the government, rebels or the United Nations, but the International Crisis Group says it estimates that at least 50,000 people have been killed.
South Sudanese are exasperated too. “Some people sit in Addis Ababa discussing politics while on the ground other people are fighting and dying,” the Catholic bishops of South Sudan said in a statement. “This war is about power not about the good of the people.”