South Sudan foes to sign deal today

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his arch-foe Riek Machar have “agreed on some points” at peace talks in Khartoum and a deal is to be signed, Sudanese officials said yesterday.

Authorities in Khartoum said the deal would be signed today (June 27) at the presidential palace in the Sudanese capital, but they did not give details and Machar’s group said the opposition needed more time for a “framework agreement”.

After East African leaders stepped up calls for an end to a brutal civil war in the world’s youngest country, a new round of Kiir-Machar talks opened Monday in Khartoum hosted by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

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“President Salva Kiir and Doctor Riek Machar, in a closed meeting with President Bashir, have agreed on some points,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed told reporters yesterday adding that details will be announced today.

Sudan’s External Information Council, a wing of the information ministry that coordinates media coverage, invited journalists to witness the signing of a deal between the two South Sudanese sides.
“South Sudanese parties will sign a deal tomorrow at 9:00 am in the presidential palace. We are inviting the media to come and witness,” it said in a message it posted on WhatsApp yesterday.

But Machar’s spokesman said negotiations between the two sides were still ongoing.
“The government of Sudan proposed that the two parties sign a framework agreement tomorrow,” Pouk Both told AFP.
“But our leader Doctor Riek Machar has asked for 48 hours to brief all South Sudanese opposition groups and his people on the ground.”
“The signing of the framework will depend on how the negotiations progress,” he said.

UN sanctions loom
The latest push for peace in South Sudan launched by regional leaders last week in Addis Ababa comes as the two warring factions face a looming deadline to avert UN sanctions.

READ: South Sudan risks fresh UN sanctions

In May, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution that requires UN chief Antonio Guterres to report by June 30 on whether a ceasefire agreed in December – the latest in a string of truce deals – was holding and whether the sides have “come to a viable political agreement.”

If not, the council “shall consider” within five days slapping sanctions on South Sudan’s defense minister and five other officials and possibly imposing an arms embargo.

On Monday, Kiir and Machar had indicated their readiness to talk peace as the Khartoum dialogue opened in the presence of Bashir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
“I have come to really bring this unnecessary war in our country to an immediate end,” Kiir said.

On Tuesday, South Sudanese Oil Minister Ezekiel Lul reiterated Kiir’s remarks at a separate press conference held with his Sudanese counterpart Azhari Abdallah to discuss how to rehabilitate South Sudan’s oilfields so as to boost the economies of Sudan and South Sudan.
“We are here ready to negotiate our position, to reach a settlement because you cannot develop without having peace,” Lul told reporters.

South Sudan’s war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about four million, broke out after Kiir fell out with his then deputy Machar in December 2013, dashing the optimism that accompanied independence from Sudan just two years earlier.

Since a 2015 peace deal collapsed in July 2016 with Machar fleeing South Sudan, Kiir’s government has gained the upper hand militarily while the opposition has splintered into a myriad of factions.
A landlocked state with a large ethnic mix, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long and devastating war with Khartoum.