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Could South Sudan peace talks be the last chance for peace?   

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- When peace talks resumed early this week in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to end South Sudan’s brutal civil war, it was with a warning the talks could be the last chance to salvage peace.

The Addis Ababa peace talks called “Second Phase of High-Level Revitalization Forum” came after the December 24, 2017 ceasefire agreement in which warring parties signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. The deal was broken hours after its enforcement was supposed to start.

IGAD Council of Ministers Chairman, Workneh Gebeyehu, told the warring parities and stakeholders at the beginning of the 10-day peace talks that “this is your last chance.” South Sudan is a member nation of the eight-nations East African bloc IGAD.

Gebeyehu, who is also Ethiopia’s foreign minister, said after the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed last December there had been multiple reports of violations.

Already, heads of the UN, AU and IGAD had during the 30th AU summit last month jointly voiced their frustrations and warned South Sudan’s warring factions against violating the recent peace deal.

With exasperation reaching boiling point among mediators and donor nations with inability of South Sudanese warring parties to end the civil war, some have taken unilateral punitive stances.

Earlier this month, the US imposed arms embargo on South Sudan ,while the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on three current and former South Sudan officials.

With South Sudan’s civil war that has killed thousands and displaced millions entering its fifth year without an end in sight, analysts say the international community especially neighboring countries can’t afford to abandon the world’s newest nation.

Abebe Aynete, senior researcher at the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies, a local think thank, told Xinhua what will most likely happen in 2018 is IGAD and its individual member nations could slap targeted sanctions on individuals suspected of fueling the conflict.

Ethiopia, an influential South Sudan neighbor, currently shelters around half a million South Sudanese refugees and has hosted several rounds of peace talks ever since the South Sudan civil war erupted in December 2013.

Aynete painted a pessimistic picture in 2018 for South Sudan, saying the much-awaited 2018 election that was supposed to solve the country’s bitter division is unlikely to happen.

South Sudan has not had democratic elections since it won independence from Sudan in 2011 after more than two decades of civil war that ended with President Salva Kiir ascending to power through referendum vote, ushering in a transition period in the oil-rich and yet impoverished country.

It descended into violence starting December 2013 after a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel chief Riek Machar led to split in the army, leaving soldiers to fight alongside ethnic lines.

The conflict has since then fragmented with shifting alliances and a fractured armed opposition making it harder for mediators to bring all sides to the negotiating table.

James Morgan, South Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia, told Xinhua that mediators and donor nations need to have full picture to resolve the conflict instead of threatening punitive measures.

“There are elements in the rebellion not interested in cessation of hostilities, the body tasked with monitoring ceasefire doesn’t have the capacity to monitor,” he said.

Morgan was referring to a Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism established by IGAD to investigate and report on cease fire violations among its tasks.

The ambassador was also defiant to threat of further sanctions especially being made by western nations out of “own self-interest and ego”.

With the US and EU starting to impose sanctions and IGAD warning it could take a range of political measures on violators and spoilers of South Sudan peace process, others are advising a more cautious approach.

Speaking exclusively to Xinhua, Chinese ambassador to South Sudan, He Xiangdong said on Monday the conflict in South Sudan may seem difficult to resolve, but every effort must be made to find sustainable solution.

“I think on punitive matters we need to further consultation with IGAD countries and AU. Definitely, a certain kind of pressure is needed to push the peace process to move forward, while at the same time be cautious of results of all the possible measures, because we need to put result first. Any measure needs to be carefully calculated to see if it’s helpful to resolve the problems or not,” said the ambassador.



South Sudan government supporters protest U.S. arms embargo

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of South Sudanese on Tuesday staged a demonstration in the capital Juba to condemn an arms embargo imposed by the United States over failure by the country’s warring parties to respect a pact on cessation of hostilities.

The pro-government protestors marched to the U.S. embassy and to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound where they handed over a petition.

The demonstrators, led by a group of traditional leaders known as the Chiefs Council of South Sudan and the South Sudan National Youth Union, sang revolutionary songs and carried anti-U.S. placards across streets.

“We condemn the attempts made by your country to weaken our hard-fought independence in what appears to obstruct prosperity for our people,” the traditional leaders said in their petition.

The protest kicked off peacefully but turned violent after angry youth started throwing stones at journalists and police guarding the UNMISS compound.

A Canadian female journalist working for the Associated Press (AP) was beaten up by the mob before being rescued by police.

The Trump administration on Friday announced arms embargo on South Sudan and urged the UN Security Council to enforce a global arms ban on the world’s youngest nation.

The U.S. government also called on the African Union (AU) and the East African regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to consider sanctions against those who undermine the peace process.

South Sudan responded by recalling its ambassador to Washington the next day to express its displeasure.

Gatluak Bol Dhew, Acting Secretary of South Sudan National Youth Union, argued that the weapons restriction will enable the several opposition groups to gain upper hand.

He said the arms ban is part of a regime change agenda spearheaded by the Trump administration, an allegation Washington has dismissed several times.

“We are aware that this arms embargo will not bring about peace but to support the lawless insurgence and will give the rebels the upper hand to fight the government,” Dhew said.

“We believe in credible elections but not regime change by force. Therefore, we are ready to defend our nation from any foreign aggression,” he added.

South Sudan has been embroiled in four years of conflict that has taken a devastating toll on the people, creating one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April 2016, but was shattered by renewed fighting in July 2016.

Fresh attempts to restore the fragile peace on the oil-rich land are ongoing in Ethiopia where warring factions are holding discussions on the best way out of the conflict.


Western nations call on South Sudan neighbors to impose arms embargo

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- A coalition of three western nations (Troika) called on Monday for South Sudan’s neighbors to impose arms embargo to put pressure on warring sides to cease fighting.

Troika, which comprises Norway, United States and UK, said cutting arms flow to South Sudan would help end the suffering of South Sudanese people.

Speaking at a press conference in Ethiopia, Paul Sutphin, US State Department senior adviser on Sudan and South Sudan, said coordinated incremental pressure is needed to bring warring sides to the negotiating table in South Sudan.

“Its critical to take arms from those who see political benefit through guns, we believe if we continue to put pressure results will be achieved to end the civil war,” he said.

“We urge all nations including South Sudan neighbors to cut all arms flow to South Sudan and end support to those who undermine peace including people who engage in illicit financial activity and to stay united in fully backing IGAD’s efforts to end the suffering of South Sudanese people,” he said.

Sutphin’s comments came days after the US imposed arms embargo on South Sudan and the European Union imposed travel ban and asset freezes on three current and former South Sudanese officials.

Speaking exclusively to Xinhua, South Sudan ambassador to Ethiopia, James Morgan dismissed the US decision to impose arms embargo on his nation.

“We’re a sovereign state that have the right to buy guns to ensure territorial integrity, impose law and order in our state and protect the rights of our citizens,” he said.

Morgan also said South Sudan currently doesn’t import arms from the US and as such won’t feel the effects of an arms embargo he said US has imposed out of its “own self-interest and ego”.

South Sudan has been embroiled in more than four years of conflict that has taken a devastating toll on the people, creating one of the most severe refugee crises in the world.

The world’s newest nation descended into violence after a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel chief Riek Machar led to split in the army, leaving soldiers to fight alongside ethnic lines.

A 2015 peace agreement aimed at ending the conflict was weakened after the outbreak of renewed fighting in July 2016 forced the opposition rebel leader Riek Machar to flee South Sudan.


United States  restricts arms exports to South Sudan

WASHINGTON United States of America (Xinhua)  -- The United States is imposing restrictions on the export of defense articles and services to South Sudan,U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Friday.

The United States is “appalled by the continuing violence in South Sudan,” she said in a statement, accusing the South Sudanese government and “armed opposition” of continued use of military force “to seek political advantage.”

The United States encourages the African Union to consider sanctions against those responsible, and is seeking support for a United Nations Security Council embargo on all arms flows into South Sudan, Nauert said.

South Sudan has been embroiled in a four-year conflict that has taken a devastating toll on the people, creating one of the most severe refugee crises in the world.

A peace deal was signed in August 2015 under UN pressure, but it was shattered by renewed fighting.



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