By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
Addis Ababa — An agreement signed between South Sudan’s warring factions aimed at reunifying the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has drawn mixed reactions among citizens living in Ethiopia.
President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar on Wednesday signed an agreement in Arusha in Tanzania to unify the party, which previously split in to three factions.
South Sudanese residing in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, told Sudan Tribune that they welcomed the deal, but questioned the commitment of Kiir and Machar to implement the agreement.
They have also described the new deal as a waste of time, referring to a number of agreements signed in the past but never honoured.
However, South Sudanese ambassador Gatwech Koak Nyuon commended the breakthrough as a major step towards ending the more than one-year-long conflict in the young East African nation that has killed thousands.
“We need to acknowledge any progress made by [the] warring factions toward peace in South Sudan,” Nyuon told Sudan Tribune.
“Any step toward peace should be valued, respected and appreciated” he added.
He underscored that realising the reunification of the party is one of the crucial tools to restoring peace in South Sudan.
However, a member of Machar’s SPLM in Opposition movement dismissed the reunification agreement, describing it as unacceptable.
“This agreement of reunification will not be accepted by the members of [the] SPLM resistance movement on the ground and in [the] diaspora,” Puoch Riek Deng told Sudan Tribune.
He said unless Kiir steps down from power “the SPLM will remain divided and disintegrated”.
The rebel faction’s top military officials, including generals on the ground, are among those insisting Kiir steps down.
“Should this deal succeed, the generals will view it as [a] betrayal by Riek Machar,” a source told Sudan Tribune.
Rebel officials in Addis Ababa have declined to comment on the deal.
Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party is mediating the negotiations on the reunification process, with Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete hosting the talks.
“Congratulations to the SPLM leadership for reaching an agreement to reunify their party for the good of South Sudan,” Tanzania’s foreign minister, Bernard Membe, wrote in a post on Twitter.
Regional leaders were also in Arusha on Wednesday to witness the signing of the agreement.
Observers say the reunification agreement may push the two rival leaders to strike a peace deal during an East Africa regional leaders summit due to be held in Addis Ababa on 30 January.
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