South Sudan: Rebels say ′no shortcut to peace′ following meeting with President Salva Kiir | News | DW | 21.06.2018
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South Sudan: Rebels say 'no shortcut to peace' following meeting with President Salva Kiir

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Machar met to discuss peace in South Sudan, but the rebels say it's "unrealistic." The war in South Sudan has continued since the two fell out in 2013, sparking violence.

South Sudan's rebel leader, Riek Machar, and the country's president, Salva Kiir, concluded their first talks in almost two years on Thursday, aimed at bringing peace to the region.

Details of the talks are not yet known, but the rebels have released a statement saying they need more time.

Read more: South Sudan: Starvation and violence

What the two sides said

  • An opposition statement by Mabior Garang on Thursday called the meeting "cordial" and said the two sides discussed the prospects for peace "in broad terms," but that peace deal remained unlikely for the time being.
  • The opposition warned that the current model for the peace process is "unrealistic" and that "there is no shortcut to peace."
  • "For any meaningful dialogue to take place, it should be within the context of a comprehensive political settlement, so that the guns can fall silent and a conducive environment for dialogue established,"  the opposition said.
  • A Kiir spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, had on Wednesday said "anything that brings peace in South Sudan is wanted." However, a South Sudanese government official later said that President Kiir was "not ready in any way" to work with Machar "in the next transitional period."

African leaders weigh in

Meanwhile in Addis Ababa, regional African leaders called on South Sudan's warring sides to find a solution.

"All eyes are focused on your will to make the dream of peace in South Sudan possible," African Union chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chat told leaders at a summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Ethiopia's prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who presided over the talks, said business could not continue "as usual."

"If ... the different parties are unwilling and unable to halt the suffering of their people, we need to put them on notice that we are ready to act," Abiy said ahead of the meeting.

Watch video 02:41

Famine as a Weapon in South Sudan

The significance of the meeting: The two have not met since July 2016, when heavy fighting in the capital Juba saw the collapse of a 2015 peace deal and Machar fleeing to South Africa.

The 2015 peace deal: In August 2015, President Kiir signed a peace deal with the rebels after the UN threatened the country with sanctions. The agreement stated fighting would immediately stop, military forces would leave the capital Juba, and the rebels would be given the post of "first vice-president." Efforts to revive the peace deal led to a ceasefire in December 2017, which lasted only a few hours before both sides accused each other of breaking it. 

Read more: Opinion: South Sudan's peace deal will fail

What sparked the civil war: The landlocked state of South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long war. The moment was praised around the world, but in 2013, Kiir accused Machar, who was his vice president, of plotting a coup against him, and violence erupted between the two factions, feeding on the country's brooding ethnic tensions.

Read more: Opinion: Stop the violence, fix the famine

Humanitarian crisis: The war has claimed at least 50,000 lives and displaced 4 million people from their homes. Protracted fighting has plagued the country with food insecurity; famine was declared in several regions in 2017. In late May, British charity Oxfam called for urgent action to prevent millions of people from starving.

UN threatens sanctions: In May, the UN Security Council gave the two warring sides one month to reach a peace deal or be subject to sanctions.The US was a critical backer of South Sudan during its separation from Sudan, and continues to be its biggest aid donor. But in June, a UN official threatened parties on both sides of the conflict with sanctions after a report from a US foundation, The Sentry, found South Sudanese elites were profiting from human rights abuses.

law/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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