South Sudan’s warring parties should be given more time to talk rather than being pushed hard by mediators amid international and regional pressure to reach settlement to end over four years of conflict, experts said on Tuesday.
Augustino Ting Mayai, political analyst at the Juba-based Sudd Institute, said the warring parties should be given more space to negotiate, instead of being pressured by the influential troika group, the U.S., Britain and Norway, to reach agreement on contentious issues.
“The Troika and regional mediators applying a lot of pressure on the parties to talk… will be forcing them to commit to what they don’t like,” Mayai said.”The parties should be left to discuss and reach agreement.”
His remarks came after the mediators sent both the government and rebels into recess with little headway at the second round of the peace revitalization talks in Adds Ababa.
Mayai criticized the fact that the warring parties did not discuss addressing the root causes of the conflict that broke out in December 2013, but rather focused much more on government restructuring to accommodate more members from the various opposition groups.
“They need to move away from creating jobs for themselves and address the root causes of the war,” he said.
South Sudan’s warring parties signed the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) last December, but immediately resumed fighting, prompting the U.S. to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan to up the pressure on both parties.
Mayai said the government and the 14 opposition groups should ditch their hard stances and reach a compromise agreement.
Jacob Chol, a political science lecturer at Juba University, said the warring parties should be allowed to contribute more to the talks rather than relying on draft proposals by mediators without their input.
“What we are hearing in Addis Ababa is that there are no discussions. Mediators are just giving them (draft proposals) papers,” Chol said. “That is not the best way for mediation. A lot of work has been done by mediators, which is not helping.”
He suggested moving the venue of the talks to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and new mediators be found, given the historical failure of past talks.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, after political disputes between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting that pitted mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
A 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital, forcing Machar to flee into exile.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and forced millions of others to seek refuge in neighboring countries.