Parties agree on cantonment of forces

Little progress has been made in the intra-South Sudanese talks which is taking place in the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as the process reaches its last day.

Parties have only agreed on cantonment of forces out of all the ten outstanding issues that were presented for deliberation during the start of exclusively South Sudanese dialogue mediated by the church.

According to Information Minister Michael Makuei, the parties have agreed to canton opposition forces and government troops that are at close proximity to conflict areas.

“To us this is an achievement and we are sure that if we sit again, we will be in a position to deliberate and come out with clear positions,” he said.

“Each and every party has its own outlook at how we would reach peace. In the course of so doing, people will disagree. So it is something natural; of course if you are negotiating.”

At the beginning of the talks, parties started discussions on governance and security which are the basis of the continued phase II of the High Level Revitalization Forum.

On governance, the issues being discussed include federalism, number of states, structure of the government, size and composition of the legislature and responsibility sharing allocation.

On Security, they are tackling unification of forces timeline, reform, demilitarization of civilians, cantonment of forces and protection of opposition political leaders.

On governance, Mr Makuei said parties have also agreed on the question of inclusivity but disagreed on the type.

He added that the government wants to maintain the current government and adding more to it.

Meanwhile, other parties want a dissolution of the current government and restructuring it to include others.

But the information minister said what has been agreed upon is an achievement given the fact that the timeframe for the current talks is not enough.

“At least a day will come when you will be moving towards one another and meet on the way. So this is difficult because this is actually the first time for the parties to clearly state their positions,” he added.

“We believe that we want a permanent peace, a lasting peace, peace that will continue, peace that will not be interrupted again by other issues in order to reach that.”

Before the talks were held on Sunday, a prayer service was conducted by the South Sudan Council of Churches.

During the session, women could be see crying and calling on the leaders to ensure that they bring peace to South Sudan.

The Archbishop of Episcopal Church of South Sudan, Justin Badi, told the leaders during the prayers that their decision will determine what the country will look like.

“The decision is in our hands. More bloodshed is in our hands, to stop the bloodshed is in our hands, to allow others to impose something on us, it is in our hands,” he stressed.

The church was supposed to present the outcome of the intra-South Sudanese talks to IGAD on Sunday.

However, according to Archbishop Badi, they have requested to continue with the negotiations until Monday afternoon.

If the church fails to resolve the outstanding issues, then IGAD will have to take over the mediation process.