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STALEMATE – Dead silence in face to face talks

By Opio Jackson in Juba and Agencies

Mixed flow and dead silence of information emerged from the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa where President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar met face to face for the first time in two years after the breakout of conflicts between their forces.

Scanty and unauthenticated information however, revealed that the two leaders did not agree on a number of issues although the meeting was cordial beyond expectations between the people who had not seen themselves eye to eye this long following the hostilities which had plunged the country into the current turmoil.

By last evening, efforts to get comments from both Addis Ababa and local sources in the country of the final happenings were futile. The Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny could not be reached while in the diplomatic circles, Amb.Mawien Makol Arik, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said he would come back to us when contacted on phone.  However, by the time of going to press, he had not done so.

Unauthenticated reports from Addis Ababa claimed that Machar had called for a comprehensive approach to achieve peace in South Sudan and rejected the current handling of the negotiations by the IGAD mediation.

The reports said Machar who met for the first since two years on Wednesday with President Salva Kiir and the Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed to discuss the outstanding issues in the implementation of the power sharing chapter of the 2015 peace agreement rejected most of the proposals claiming there was no shortcut to peace.

Reports after the closed-door encounter revealed there was no progress in the outstanding issues.

In a statement released Thursday, it was said the meeting was cordial and the two leaders discussed the prospects for peace in broad terms.

However it added that the opposition criticised the current model of negotiations adopted by the IGAD Secretariat which holds workshops for the parties and then make proposals for the parties to endorse it.

“The imposition of an agreement on the parties will not work and all the opposition groups have rejected the recent “Bridging proposal” as not reflecting any of our positions,” Machar is reported to have said.

Instead, he proposed to revisit and use a model adopted by the IGAD during the talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLM in Naivasha process which led to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005.

“The CPA model allowed the warring parties to discuss amongst themselves what the problems and possible resolutions could be, with an IGAD Secretariat to record the areas of agreement between the parties,” Machar said according to the reports.

The other opposition groups complained that the mediators brushed aside their position papers and only considered the positions of the government in its proposals.

Also, during the face-to-face meeting, sources said the two leaders had opposed positions on many issues and that President Kiir reiterated his position that he preferred to see SPLM-IO appoint another person as First Vice President but not Machar.

The IGAD Council of Ministers has concluded its meeting in Addis and the head of states and governments would meet this evening in Addis Ababa.

According to information from Addis Ababa, the outcome of the two meetings was to be released last night or today morning.




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