South Sudan’s Kiir Arrives in Ethiopia for Talks With SPLM-in Opposition

South Sudan President Salva Kiir arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday (March 2) for direct talks with SPLM-In Opposition leader Riek Machar. The two leaders are meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam separately before they begin face to face talks. Under the agreement signed last month by President Kiir and Dr. Machar, the two sides have until March 5 to agree a comprehensive peace settlement, to be followed later by the formation of a transitional unity government no later than July 9.

At the beginning of last week, representatives of the two sides resumed the IGAD-mediated talks in Addis Ababa to finalize power-sharing issues and determine the army’s status during a transitional period. The main areas for the principals to resolve are the structure of the government particularly in the top level, power sharing ratios in the cabinet and in the national Assembly as well as the status of the army during the 30-month long interim period, but agreement has also yet to be reached on financial issues including on how to share revenues from the country’s oil wealth and disclosure of national debts.

Over the previous week, thematic committees from both sides made some progress but little on security arrangements or economic reforms and substantial disagreements remained over implementation of a federal system of governance, on security sector reforms and wealth-sharing as well as leadership structure and power-sharing, civil service reforms, accountability and reconciliation. Failure to reach agreement by the March 5 deadline could result in African Union sanctions – including travel bans, asset freezes and arms embargoes – on both sides. US secretary of state, John Kerry, issued a statement on Monday calling on the warring parties in South Sudan to “seize the current and final round of negotiations to deliver a sustainable peace.”

Mr. Kerry said: “A negotiated conclusion to this conflict is required now.” He criticized the government saying: “Legitimacy is not a presumed right of any government. It is conferred by the people, and it is sustained only by demonstrating leadership to protect and serve all citizens – responsibilities the government has neglected.”

He also strongly criticized the opposition for not making “the hard choices required of leaders.” He said the United States would work with international partners, including those in the region, the UN Security Council, and beyond, to take further concerted action against those who do not demonstrate a willingness to make the difficult decisions needed for peace.

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