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Kiir government calls deal a 'sellout'

Ole Tangen Jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)August 18, 2015

Not even a day after South Sudan President Salva Kiir attended a signing ceremony in Addis Ababa for a new peace accord with rebels, his government stated that they will not accept the deal.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir
Image: Reuters/T. Negeri

The deal was signed by rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar and a representative of the South Sudanese government. The president had originally stated that he would need 15 days to study the deal before signing it.

"We strongly believe that this document cannot save the people of South Sudan," Information Minister Michael Makuei told reporters, as President Kiir returned home from Ethiopia.

"It is a sellout, and we will not accept it," Makuei said, adding that the government would now discuss the deal with the people for 15 days.

Along with regional leaders and representatives from the US and the EU among others, the two sides have been negotiating the agreement since August 6. It is unclear why the Kiir government decided to come out so strongly against a deal just hours after seeming to accept its terms. Kiir has previously objected to any agreement because of the split among rebel groups in the country.

"We objected to it. There are disputed provisions and there are outstanding issues that need to be negotiated and agreed upon," Makuei added. The details of the deal have not been released.

The EU and the US had threatened to impose sanctions on the two sides if a deal was not reached by the end of Monday.

"The United States deeply regrets that the government of South Sudan chose not to sign. We call on the government to sign the agreement within the 15-day period it requested for consultations," State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily briefing.

"We are going to work with our regional and international partners on the next steps and on ways to increase pressure, especially against those that are undermining the peace process or opposing this agreement,” he added.

The EU announced on Tuesday that "failing to comply would entail consequences” without elaborating on what type of sanctions are being considered.

Angry neighbors

Regional leaders, including Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, were present at the signing and have been pressuring both sides to sign the deal.

Upon returning from the negotiations in Addis Ababa, Kenyatta said it was crucial "to ensure sustainable peace" after the extra time was granted.

"The peace process cannot be forced on any party, and that was why the mediators allowed more time for the government side to consult further," a statement from Kenyatta's office read.

More critical of the decision by Kiir not to sign the agreement was the Ugandan government. President Yoweri Museveni has usually been supportive of President Kiir and has sent troops to fight alongside government troops and to protect Juba. According to Reuters, at one stage Museveni stormed out of the venue in Addis Ababa.

Rebel leader Riek Machar
Rebel leader Riek Machar signed the peace deal.Image: Reuters/T. Negeri

"The Ugandan government knows how strenuous it is to achieve peace between belligerents, especially when the belligerents have big egos and when those belligerents put their personal egos above national interests," Ugandan government spokesman Shaban Bantariza said in Kampala.

"We can only continue to mediate, to encourage every side to realize that their country is superior to every one of them individually," he added.

Further attacks?

Soon after the government came out against the peace deal, rebels claimed that government troops were attacking positions in Imatong in the southeastern part of the country.

"The regime in Juba rejected to sign the peace agreement because it has chosen war over peace," rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar said in a statement on Tuesday.

On Monday the United Nations announced that 200,000 South Sudanese fleeing the violence are being housed in UN camps. Hundreds of thousands of others have fled to neighboring countries.