1 Jan 2014

South Sudan: Peace talks start but war continues

The President of South Sudan will negotiate with his former deputy today, in an attempt to halt the ethnic murders that have taken 1,000 lives in the last two weeks.

President Salva Kiir will sit down with his former deputy today to broker a deal on the spiralling civil war in South Sudan. About 1,000 people have been killed after fighting broke out between rebels loyal to the deposed Vice President Riek Machar and President Kiir’s government troops two weeks ago.

President Kiir said the negotiations with Mr Machar would start as planned, despite ongoing battles.

“We don’t want to expose the people of South Sudan to a senseless war,” South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said Wednesday.

Mr Kiir and Riek Machar are due to meet in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa in talks arranged by African peace-keeping troops and backed by the UN and international community.

The White House put pressure on the South Sudanese to negotiate on Tuesday, saying it would deny support to any group that seized power by force.

“We will hold leaders responsible for the conduct of their forces and work to ensure accountability for atrocities and war crimes,” said spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Bor attack could scupper talks

Ethiopian Foreign Minister was worried that a rebel strike on the town of Bor last night would damage the talks.

“I’m worried that the continued fighting in Bor might scupper the start of these talks,” said Tedros Adhanom, who is also brokering the peace talks on behalf of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD said both sides would name teams of negotiators to agree on ways to roll out and monitor the ceasefire.

Political rivalry becomes ethnic war

President Salva Kiir has accused his long-term political rival Mr Machar, who he sacked in July, of starting the fighting in a bid to seize power.

Clashes between soldiers erupted on 15 December in the national capital Juba. The violence quickly spread to oil-producing areas, dividing the country along the ethnic lines with Mr Machar’s Nuer group on one side and Mr Kiir’s Dinkas on the other.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan said ethnic-based atrocities, often carried out against civilians by uniformed men, have taken place across the country.

Mr Machar has denied the charge of starting the trouble, but he has acknowledged that he has led soldiers into battle against the government.

Youngest country in the world

South Sudan is the newest country in the world – declared separate from North Sudan in 2011. It is rich in oil – 98 per cent of the national budget comes from oil – but the fields mainly lie in disputed territory on the border with the north.

And according to Al Jazeera, 51 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and the national literacy level is 15 per cent.