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Church-led Addis talks near failure, IGAD to decide next move

Michael Makuei Lueth, Government Spokesperson (photo by Jale Richard):

By Jale Richard – Addis Ababa

The South Sudan peace talks being led by the Church leaders is about to falter despite an emotional prayer for peace held by the delegates in Addis Ababa on Sunday.

Many of the delegates who prayed were moved and shed tears as they prayed for peace to prevail in South Sudan. It was the second time for women, bishops and members of the congregation to cry during prayers in Addis Ababa.

The delegates had prayed and cried for peace in February 2018 during the first phase of the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF).

That forum was suspended after the parties failed to agree on most of the outstanding issues on chapters one and two on governance and security arrangement respectively.

When the talks resumed last week, South Sudan Council of Churches started leading the intra-South Sudanese talks where only South Sudanese were involved in the discussions with the IGAD only playing observer role.

The Parties last week formed a Leadership Committee and sub-committees on Security and Governance. Each committee was chaired by a senior Church leader with secretariat support.

Briefing the IGAD two days in to the discussion, the church on Saturday said there was some improvement.

“Some progress has been made and the spirit is positive, even as the committee members begin tackling the issues. The parties have committed to silence the guns while the process and momentum are maintained.

The South Sudan Council of Churches appeals to all parties to avoid negative statements and to strictly abide by the agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, protection of civilians and humanitarian access,” the statement said without much detail.

However yesterday, the Archbishop and primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan Justin Badi Arama during a church service told the delegates that time was running out for them to agree on a number of the outstanding issues.

According to the IGAD time table, the talks will end on today.

“If we don’t agree today (Sunday), which means we go back and allow maybe about another 1,000 or so people to die or lose part of their bodies as IGAD looks for money to bring us back again,”  the Most Reverend said. “It is now in our hands.”

Archbishop Justin Badi said the decision for ending the suffering of South Sudanese lied in the hands of the political leaders.

“Today the decision is in your hands. More bloodshed, it is in our hands. To allow others to impose something on us, it is in our hands,” he said.  “Let others impose on us or we are able to agree on one position?” he asked.

Government spokesperson Michael Makuei Lueth said the parties agreed on cantonment of forces and inclusivity, but did not agree on how to include all the political leaders in the next government.

He added that even some people are saying the Church failed in its efforts to convince the parties to agree, the church insisted that they will continue to pursue the peace process until the parties agree to sign a peace deal.

Pagan Amum of Former Political Detainees (FDs) said he was disappointed that the parties were unable to agree on a number of issues in the leadership and governance committees.

However, he said the church helped in building confidence between the parties through the “South –South talks”.

In an earlier interview, the IGAD special envoy to South Sudan Ambassador Ismail Wais stated that the outcomes of the Church-led negotiations will be submitted to IGAD to act upon. He said IGAD would decide based on the outcome of the Church mediations whether to extend the days for the talks or to call it off and reconvene it later.

Pagan Amum Okiech of Former Political Detainees (photo by Jale Richard)

 

 

 

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