LEADERS of two warring parties in South Sudan have failed to reach a peace deal, despite earlier reports that a pact was signed under international pressure to end violence soon to enter its second year.
The country’s state-run news agency said closed-door talks in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa had seen President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar engaged in two days of intense negotiations, but had boiled down to no agreement.
“In the meeting, Kiir and Machar engaged in a blistering discussion, with President Kiir asking Machar to drop his rebellion and join his government while Machar lectured Kiir on the goodness of federalism and other democratic alternatives that can be utilized to solve the current crisis,” the news agency reported.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional body that was supervising the talks, adjourned the meeting for two weeks, and asked both sides to cease hostility, the agency said.
Earlier reports said that Kiir and Machar had agreed to commit to an unconditional, complete and immediate end to all hostilities, after the UN Security Council and leaders of East African nations threatened to impose economic and travel sanctions on the leaders of the world’s youngest country.
The reports, citing a statement by IGAD, said that any violation of the deal would invite asset freezes and travel bans throughout the East African IGAD member states.
The IGAD members also reserved the right to directly intervene in the violence and to prevent weapons from transiting through their countries to South Sudan.
It would have been the third deal to be reached, since two previous accords have failed to end violence as clashing fighting continued, especially around the country’s oil installations.
South Sudan descended into violence at the end of last year when fighting broke out between soldiers and rebels loyal to Machar and government loyalists backing Kiir.
Since the violence first began, more than 1.7 million people had to flee their homes and thousands have been killed.
Humanitarian officials say that South Sudan risks falling into a famine situation next year if the violence does not end and people do not return home to plant crops.
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Rebels Accuse South Sudan of Breaking Truce
Rebels say their positions attacked by government forces hours after peace deal was signed.
SOUTH Sudanese rebels have accused the government of violating their latest ceasefire deal, just hours after both sides pledged to end almost a year of fighting.
Taban Deng Gai, negotiator for the ethnic Nuer rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, said on Saturday government troops had “advanced from Bentiu and Pariang and attacked our positions at Tor and Hofra in Unity state”.
Unity is South Sudan’s oil hub and saw fighting last month. Neither the government of President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, nor the eight-nation regional bloc IGAD, were available for comment.
Seyoum Mesfin, chief mediator in the conflict, had announced earlier in the day, after two days of talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, that both sides had agreed to cease hostilities unconditionally and bring the war to an end.
“The parties commit to an unconditional, complete and immediate end to all hostilities, and to bring the war to an end,” said Seyoum, adding that they had also pledged to stop recruiting and mobilising civilians.
The former Ethiopian foreign minister told reporters that IGAD had granted the two sides 15 days to conduct further consultations, and said it had agreed to punish any party that violated the agreement with asset freezes and travel bans, among other measures.
He said IGAD would also stop the supply of arms and ammunition to any side that carried on fighting.
“The IGAD region shall, without further reference to the warring parties, take the necessary measures to directly intervene in South Sudan to protect life and restore peace and stability,” he said.
Machar welcomed the deal, saying: “We do not want any soldier or any civilian to die again after this progress in Addis Ababa.”
Kiir, for his part, ordered troops from the national army to stay in their barracks in compliance with the agreement.
“Should they be attacked from any direction, they should only fight in self-defence,” Kiir said.
The European Union and the United States have already imposed sanctions on both sides for frequent breaches of a first peace agreement signed in January, and threatened more.
The internal conflict in South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011, has killed more than 10,000 people, driven 1 million from their homes and raised the spectre of famine.