June 18, 2018 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese parties concluded the IGAD brokered round of Intensive Interlinked Consultations (IICs) on Monday without an agreement on the governance chapter, and it was decided to refer the outstanding issues to the face-to-face meeting of the rival leaders.
The IGAD Council of Ministers, last May, decided to hold the IICs to assist South Sudanese parties to reach a common ground on the outstanding issues of security arrangements and governance.
The 16-18 June discussions, which are part of the High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF), are based on the IGAD revised Bridging Proposal prepared by the mediation after the failure of the parties to ink the initial version last May.
Speaking to reporters after the three-day meeting, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said the parties have reached an agreement on security arrangements but he denounced the opposition, saying it stuck to its positions on the governance because of the face-to-face meeting.
“On the security arrangements, the (negotiating) teams managed to make progress and the provisions which have been agreed upon are now being prepared in their final form and will be initialled by the generals tonight,” said Lueth.
The minister who is also the government spokesperson added that despite the additional concessions they made the opposition continued to make “impossible demands”.
Accordingly, he said, it was decided that the outstanding issues on the governance chapter will be addressed by President Salva Kiir and SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar in their meeting on 20 June in Addis Ababa.
“I believe this face-to-face meeting that made the opposition to be rather adamant and not ready to listen to the voice of peace,” he said.
The outcome of the IICs will be submitted to the IGAD Council of Ministers which will meet in the morning of 21 May. It will be followed by a Summit of Heads of State and Government, which will be held on the same day in the afternoon in Addis Ababa.
The initial Bridging Proposal on the power-sharing had been refused by the opposition but also the government strongly resisted several matters particularly the dissolution of the National Legislative Assembly and percentage of the opposition at the State governments.
Speaking about main three issues that led to the failure of the consultations, the minister who is also a member of the government negotiating team disclosed that the differences are related to the composition of the executive, the parliament and the state governments.
The government rejected the dissolution of the parliament and the appointment of 400 legislators as it proposed in the IGAD Bridging Proposal saying “this is a red line”.
Makuei said his government only accepts to increase the membership of the existing parliament during the transitional period by adding 100 lawmakers. The SPLM-IO will be given 70 seats and the 30 remaining seats will be allocated to the other opposition groups.
For the cabinet, he said they have made a “very serious concession” accordingly the all the opposition groups including the SPLM-IO will be allocated 30% of the government 32 portfolios.
The IGAD proposed to increase the portfolios to 42 ministers and 15 deputy ministers.
Regarding the state governments, the government delegation brushed aside the IGAD proposition to which provides that 55% of the governorship will go to the government, 25% to the SPLM-IO and 20% to the other opposition groups.
“In the states, we said the power-sharing will be 80% for the government and 20% for the opposition groups even in the states where the opposition has no presence,” said the government spokesperson.
He added this these ratios will apply only for the executive but do not include the state legislative assemblies or the local governments.
In the IGAD Bridging Proposal, the power-sharing applies to apply to governorships, the executive councils of the States, and, the legislative assemblies of the States.
The minister expressed hope that after “the face-to-face meeting, we will be in a position to probably to better straights towards achieving peace in South Sudan”.
South Sudanese government officials told Sudan Tribune that they expect that Kiir-Machar meeting would not make a tangible difference in the positions of the two sides.
They hope the IGAD mediation would continue to improve the text in a way that a compromise can be possible between the two main rivals in the near future.