Direct talks by rival South Sudan leaders offer hope for peace pact

President Salva Kiir
President Salva Kiir

Continued direct talks between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar would move forward the stalled 2018 peace deal and enable timely formation of a transitional government by mid-November, experts said on Friday.

James Okuk, senior research fellow at the Center for Strategic Policy Studies, a Juba-based think tank, said this week’s face-to-face meeting between Kiir and Machar provided hope that the stalled peace agreement can still be implemented despite delays.

“If the parties that signed the agreement manage to move with the speed that they have exerted now, I think that by November, they can form the government and avoid another failure,” Okuk told Xinhua.

The former allies who turned bitter foes concluded their first direct talks in Juba on Wednesday.

Okuk urged the parties to the agreement to continue holding direct talks and also exert maximum political will to implement their pledges and form the new power-sharing government by Nov. 12.

“So far, they (parties to the agreement) are full of pledges more than action,” Okuk said. “The people are waiting for the parties to go beyond pledges and go for actions that will score achievements that are required for implementation.”

During the three days of talks, the two leaders agreed to speed up screening and registration of their forces; they also formed a committee to handle the deadlock surrounding the number of states, a key issue that has been dragging the peace process backward.

“I think such a move (face-to-face meeting) is remarkable. We are impressed with it because it’s a call that we have been making for long,” said civil society activist Edmund Yakani.

Beny Gideon Mabor, a Juba-based legal expert, said the confidence-building exercise undertaken by Kiir and Machar have somehow eased the ever-growing doubts about the peace process.

He called on the country’s leaders to take decisive actions and ensure that the November deadline for the formation of the new government is not missed again.

“I encourage president Kiir and Riek to redouble their efforts and overcome the remaining obstacles to form the transitional government of national unity,” Mabor said.

South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013 after President Kiir sacked his deputy, Machar, leading to fighting between soldiers loyal to Kiir and those loyal to Machar.

The conflict has since killed tens of thousands and displaced over 4 million others, both internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in 2015 collapsed after renewed violence in July 2016, forcing Machar to flee the capital.

Under the 2018 peace deal, Machar will take up one of the four vice presidency positions in the transitional government. Enditem

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