ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Aug 6 – The government of South Sudan has agreed to the deployment of protection forces in the capital Juba after a crucial regional summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Newly-appointed First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, who led South Sudan government delegation to the summit known as IGAD-Plus, emerged to say that he was ready to step down from his position and give it to Riek Machar once he returns to Juba.
IGAD is the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development. IGAD-Plus includes representatives of the United Nations, African Union, and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission that monitors the progress in implementation of the peace agreement in Africa’s youngest nation.
The Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Amb.
Mahboub Maalim said the Heads of State of member states have directed the chiefs of staff to go to Juba and discuss the modalities of deployment of the protection force with the government of South Sudan.
“The Government of South Sudan has accepted with no condition the deployment of protection force,” he said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta joined other regional leaders at the summit hosted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. He has pressed the South Sudan leaders to take responsibility for the latest upheavals in their country, and work to find a sustainable solution.
Goi Jooyul Yol, SPLM/IO representative to African Union, who led representatives of Riek Machar to the meeting, said his team is pleased with the new arrangement although modalities of deployment are yet to be discussed.
He said a joint meeting of chiefs of staff of all member states will be held to discuss logistics of deploying more regional troops to South Sudan.
President Kenyatta, a key player in the South Sudan peace process and the IGAD rapporteur on the subject, had urged South Sudan leaders to embrace the peace deal they signed last August to prevent the recurrence of conflict.
President Kenyatta called on the parties to the conflict to live up to the expectations of their people, the region, and the international community by keeping their commitments under the Agreement.
“I assure them of our unwavering support as long as they stay this course and are seen to be doing so,” the President said.
He pointed out that failure to adhere to this Agreement would have catastrophic implications not only to South Sudan but also to the region.
“Certainly, we cannot stand by and let this happen,” President Kenyatta said.
The Head of State emphasised that the leadership of South Sudan has to make a decision to remove the people of South Sudan from the abyss of uncertainty to peace, stability and socio-economic development.
“The South Sudanese look upon you and us for leadership and direction and we must not let them down,” President Kenyatta told the South Sudan leaders.
The President also sought some quick wins.
He expressed the need to, first, address the recent violence in Juba and elsewhere in South Sudan to end the recurrence of the breakdown of law and order.
He pointedly asked for accountability from the South Sudan leaders.
“This would serve to restore a measure of confidence and trust between the parties,” President Kenyatta said.
Second, the Transitional Government of National Unity must urgently establish the security architecture envisaged in the Peace Agreement, President Kenyatta said.
He said the security plan must also provide unhindered access to the Monitoring and Verification Teams under the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Mechanism.
The President said the Government of South Sudan must also embark on the immediate cantonment of armed forces throughout the country, to separate the forces in accordance with the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements.
“The re-integration of the Defence Forces must begin in earnest,” the Head of State said.
He said the Peace Agreement must be safeguarded at all cost and asked the South Sudanese leadership to embark on dialogue and reconciliation.
“The people of South Sudan must come first, second and third. They deserve and must be assured of peace, stability and economic development,” President Kenyatta said.
The President stressed that a unified and coherent regional and international front must be maintained to bring collective leverage to bear for the full implementation of the Peace Agreement and anchor lasting peace to South Sudan.
The meeting was chaired by the current Chairperson of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government who is also the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Other IGAD member state leaders who attended the meeting include, Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia and Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti.