The already floundering peace talks in South Sudan hit a new obstacle when leaders of the rebel military group, who have waged war on the government, failed to arrive on multiple days of the negotiations.
As of this writing, rebels have failed to appear for two consecutive days of talks. The failure to arrive at the peace talks contradicts official statements from the rebels declaring that they have, “repeatedly assured the mediation of their commitment to the inclusive, multi-stakeholder roundtable peace process and the modalities for comprehensive talks.”
It is still unknown exactly why they did not show up. The only available pieces of information appear to indicate that the rebels have begun to boycott the talks after changing their position on who should represent them at the negotiations. Rebel leaders have also demanded that stakeholder groups which are based outside of South Sudan should take place in the talks, but these demands have largely been ignored by other parties involved in the talks.
Additionally, rebel representatives have raised complaints about the continuing presence of Ugandan soldiers in the country.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc, has been overseeing the talks which have been taking place in Addis Abba, Ethiopia. IGAD has repeatedly asked for the rebel group to “honor its commitment to resolve the crisis” and have the rebels “immediately return to and fully participate in the multi-stakeholder negotiations.”
The president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, and rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar had initially agreed in prior talks last June to create a transitional government in 60 days. That deadline falls on August 10.
If the talks do fail, a return to conflict is widely expected. Since the conflict began last December, thousands have died and at least 1.5 million have been displaced. These numbers are not even taking into account the fact that the nation is on the cusp of famine and a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe.
The situation is tense, as those who are involved are unsure if the talks will try to continue in spite of the rebels’ absence, if talks will be extended or if the entire process will implode. The only thing that is certain is that South Sudan is on the cusp of disaster, and the only way to pave the way for stability is for both sides to come to an agreement and end the hostilities.
– Andre Gobbo
Sources: BBC, Voice of America, Bloomberg