South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir will not attend regional bloc’s (IGAD) extraordinary summit due in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Monday, his office announced on Thursday.
The summit, to be attended by IGAD heads of state and government, is expected to discuss the dire security and humanitarian situation facing South Sudan and the obstacles to the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August, 2015.
An official at the office of the South Sudanese presidency confirmed Kiir’s absence.
“He [Kiir] will not attend the IGAD summit. The president has already sent a letter of apology through the minister in his office,” said the spokesperson for South Sudan presidency, Ateny Wek Ateny.
“There are no reasons, but the president is attending to other things here in South Sudan. The team that will represent the president has not yet been formed,” he added.
Ateny said the South Sudanese leader had other commitments in the war-torn nation, adding that government was implementing the 2015 peace accord.
Several military and government officials attributed Kiir’s change of mind to advice from security and the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), who reportedly think regional leaders may force Kiir to make concessions in favour of armed opposition forces.
Others claim the main reason for the president’s absence stems from fears that he could be blocked from returning to the country since the army is divided after he sacked the army chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan from his post in May.
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There are also concerns from the leadership on why the summit was called at the time when the armed opposition forces have stepped up their activities in the region.
The summit is among others, expected to help find amicable remedies to the dire security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan.
The extraordinary summit was called by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, who is also the current chairperson of the regional bloc.
Desalegn said the implementation of South Sudan’s 2015 peace deal was lagging behind and fighting still rages on, despite declaration of a unilateral ceasefire and the recent launch by the recent launch of the national dialogue.
South Sudan descended into civil war after President Kiir fired Riek Machar as vice president in 2013. A peace deal signed in 2015 is yet to be fully implemented.