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East African bloc convenes meeting
on South Sudan ahead of peace talks

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African bloc, brought together South Sudanese warring parties to discuss governance and security issues ahead of a new round of peace talks scheduled for May 17.

According to the East African bloc, the consultation session, underway in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa from May 15 to 16, is providing South Sudanese parties with key information to enable them to identify optimal security arrangements, power-sharing options and challenges associated with a Transitional Government of National Unity.

It is “an opportunity for the key representatives of the parties, leading on governance and security issues, to revisit general principles and practices relating to governance and security issues during political transitions,” the East African bloc said in a statement.

The IGAD Director of Peace and Security Division, Tewolde Gebremeskel, told representatives of the South Sudanese warring parties that the seminar on governance and security was organized in order to support the parties’ deliberations during the HLRF due to start on Thursday.

“In the intervening period between Phase II of the HLRF and today, IGAD Council of Ministers have been engaging with your respective parties in Juba, Addis Ababa, and Pretoria, in order to bridge the gaps in your divergent views on the outstanding substantive issues,” Gebremeskel said.

The session on South Sudan’s governance system and security situations will be followed by a new High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) that aimed to bring peace agreement among the warring parties towards ending the conflict in the world’s youngest nation, according to IGAD.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 following political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel chief Riek Machar led to split within the SPLA, leaving soldiers to fight alongside ethnic lines.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict was weakened after the outbreak of renewed fighting in July 2016 caused the SPLA-in opposition rebel leader Machar to flee the capital. 



UN urges South Sudan to protect aid workers, cease hostilities

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN top relief official wrapped up a two-day visit to South Sudan on Wednesday, calling all warring parties to cease hostilities and protect humanitarian workers and civilians.

Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, lamented that ordinary persons are now suffering amidst fresh fighting that has displaced tens of thousands of people in multiple locations across the country.

“The conflict in South Sudan is now in its fifth year. Ordinary people are suffering on an unimaginable scale. The peace process has so far produced nothing. The cessation of hostilities is a fiction. The economy has collapsed,” Lowcock said in a statement issued at the end of his visit.

Lowcock who arrived in Juba on Tuesday held talks with senior government officials, members of SPLA-in Opposition, humanitarian agencies, and partners. He also visited people affected by the crisis in Juba, Yei Town and Mundu.

“Belligerents use scorched-earth tactics, murder and rape as weapons of war. All these are gross violations of international law. Seven million people need humanitarian assistance in 2018. And things are simply getting worse,” he said.

The UN relief official said ending the violence in the world’s youngest nation is the first and single most important thing needed to alleviating human suffering in South Sudan.

According to the UN, about 4.3 million people have been displaced, including more than 1.76 million who are internally displaced and about 2.5 million in neighboring countries.

Lowcock said displaced people are more vulnerable to threats to their safety, health and livelihoods. “Despite a multitude of challenges, humanitarians are saving lives and protecting people,” said Lowcock.

He said about 7 million people, more than one in two across the country, will need humanitarian assistance in 2018 due to compounding effects of widespread violence and insecurity and a deteriorating economy.

Lowcock, who also met with relief agencies whose staff and operations have been affected by insecurity and paid tribute to the bravery of aid workers across the country, said the humanitarian workers need rapid, safe, unhindered access to all people in need.

“Aid agencies are subject to harassment, extortion, looting, kidnappings, killings, predatory fees and levies and other blockages across the country—perpetrated by all parties to the conflict,” he said.

He described South Sudan as “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a humanitarian worker as crimes are being committed against aid workers, with apparent impunity.

“There needs to be accountability, and the Government - because it is the Government, and this is a responsibility of Governments everywhere—has the prime responsibility for that,” Lowcock said.

The number of aid workers killed in South Sudan since conflict broke out in December 2013 reached 101 this month, according to the UN.


South Sudanese leader urges regional support amid peace deal pressure

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday urged countries in the region to continue supporting Juba amid pressure from the United States to reach peace agreement with rebels.

“For those who are not South Sudanese and they have interfered in our own affairs I want them really to realize their role. There are people who have helped us during the (liberation) war all our neighbors here helped us to fight effectively and I would like them also not to forget what they did to us, now if they get involved in a sinister way we would not be happy with them,” Kiir said on State radio in Juba to mark the army day of liberation.

South Sudan marks May 16, since it was the day when the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) led by the late founder John Garang Demabior launched the struggle for liberation against the Sudanese government in 1983 in the northern Bor town of Jonglei.

Kiir called upon the rebel groups to lay down arms and negotiate with his government.

“We are now having our own people (rebels) who are fighting us. I am calling them to put the guns down and they come to the table to talk. Let us bring peace back to our country we will not bring it back by arms because it will take us long,” he said.

The U.S. and Britain recently expressed frustrations with the warring parties over continued delays on reaching peace agreement to end the more than four years conflict, and the U.S. also criticized South Sudan President for appointing General Gabriel Jok Riak who is indicted by the UN to head the SPLA.

The warring parties are set to discuss at the third round of peace talks on Thursday in the Ethiopian capital where they will be expected to reach final agreement.

“It is not easy to come to Juba by force of arms, even if you manage to come and kick out the current government that is now in Juba. The government also has its own supporters who are lying around, they may go back to these bushes that you (rebels) are using to come back and fight you,” Kiir said.

He also said the ongoing economic difficulty in the oil dependent country will be solved when peace is achieved with rebels, adding that it will be boosted by ongoing exploration for new oil wells amid international appreciation of oil price.

“It’s the war which has now brought this situation but we are hopeful that if the war stops the economy will improve. The oil production will increase because we are now working on how to discover new wells and to increase the oil production,” he said.

South Sudan relies 98 percent on oil to finance its fiscal budget but outbreak of conflict in December 2013 caused oil production to decline from 350,000 barrels per day to 160,000 bpd.

President Kiir said many people died when they were pursuing the right cause of liberation.

“I want to thank our martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the nation they did not enjoy. Let us work hard so that their sacrifices do not go in vain,” Kiir said. 


South Sudan peace monitors call for sobriety ahead of peace talks

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan peace monitors on Monday called on warring parties to the conflict not to squander any opportunity during the next round of peace talks slated for Thursday in Ethiopia.

Festus Mogae, the chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), said the leaders of the world’s youngest nation have missed so many opportunities to end the more than four years’ conflict and achieve a durable peace.

“This is the time for all parties at the forum to put the interest of the country first and make compromises necessary to achieve resolution of all the outstanding issues,” Mogae said after he announced the postponement of 21st JMEC plenary meeting in Juba.

He reiterated the urgent need to revisit the range of practical measures that can be applied on peace saboteurs and make it clear to all concerned that the world will not tolerate any further disruption of efforts to deliver peace.

“I want to appeal directly to the authorities here in Juba and to all the opposition groups that you are all South Sudanese, and I urge you all to accommodate one another, to end this senseless violence,” said the former Botswana president.

He expressed his disappointment over the violation of a cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa, seen as the desired impact of halting the violence.

“I continue to urge the parties to adhere to the CoHA (ceasefire). The parties must refrain from all acts of violence, cease hostilities and take immediate steps to investigate and punish those responsible within their ranks,” Mogae stressed.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) led High-Level Revitalization Peace Forum (HLRF) is scheduled to resume on Thursday.

South Sudan’s conflict has now entered its fifth year. The conflict erupted in 2013 after forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar engaged in combat.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital, Juba, forcing Machar to flee into exile.

Millions of South Sudanese civilians have sought refuge in neighboring countries as the conflict rages on despite attempts by international players to end it.


South Sudan launches consultations on truth and reconciliation

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Tuesday launched the country-wide consultations on the establishment of the Commission on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) as part of the 2015 peace agreement.

The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has formed a technical committee that will leave Juba for 13 major towns across the country to hear and document public views on issues relating to the legislation for the creation of the Commission.

“We are launching the second phase of our work by consulting the masses. We have sensitized them earlier and this time we are going to collect their views on what we have sensitized them about through a questionnaire,” Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice Hon James Mayen Oka said in a statement.

He disclosed that they are very late in undertaking this process, but remain very appreciative to partners in United Nation’s Development Program (UNDP) and UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for their continued support.

The national consultations will be in two phases, the first phase from May 14 to 18 and the second phase from May 25 to June 1 in the target locations of Bor, Torit, Yambio, Rumbek, Wau, Malakal, Leer, Renk, Bentiu, Aweil, Mundri, Yei and Kuajok.

The questionnaire, with technical support from UNDP and ICTJ, is composed of 21 questions to be anonymously answered by randomly selected respondents about their views for design and setting up of the commission.

Views collected during the consultations will form the basis for drafting the CTRH legislation that will be approved by the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).



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