Could South Sudan ever find national unity?

by Elayne Wangalwa 0

The South Sudanese government and the opposition signed a blueprint, dubbed ‘the matrix’ on 25 August during a summit of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. However, critics feel the summit was a total failure.

“The conflict in South Sudan is very complex. It involves deep rooted ethnic and political tension that have built up over a long time and it actually requires a multi-lateral approach to the discussions or negotiations that are ongoing,” Kenneth Okwaro, director of the Africa Centre for People, Institutions and Society told CNBC Africa.

IGAD which has been actively mediating peace talks between Africa’s youngest nation warring rivals proposed a regional plan for a transitional government of National Unity in South Sudan which in turn hopes will pave the way for a permanent peace deal.

In June, IGAD threatened sanctions against South Sudan’s feuding sides. The eight country trade bloc which includes Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea asked the warring sides to cease military operations.

“The plan has been the proposal of a transitional government that runs for about 30 months but to have an election happen 16 months before the end of the 30 month life of the transitional government. The arrangement is that President Salva Kiir will retain his presidential position but they are offering a prime minister position to the side of the rebels but they would decide who to be the prime minister. However, we have already seen the rebels shunning this,” Okwaro said.

Taban Deng Gai, the rebel’s negotiator has denied that they were party to the matrix agreement which will involve a power-sharing government and accused the regional intermediaries of favouring the government’s side.

“The rebels have had specific issues with the agreement and also the government has had specific issues with the agreement. The rebels for example have had issues with the presence of Uganda’s army in the country. They have also had issues with the presence of other people in the negotiating table because what IGAD has been proposing is to have a round table [discussion] while the rebels have been fronting for direct negotiations,” Okwaro said.

(READ MORE: South Sudan rebel leader sets out conditions for talks)

The political conflict which broke out in December 2013 in the capital of Juba between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel soldiers aligned with Riek Machar – Kiir’s former vice president – has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over 1.5 million with many fleeing to neighbouring countries like Ethiopia and Kenya and those left are in a dire humanitarian situation.