South Sudan rejects new peace deal with Machar’s faction

October 20, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudan government under President Salva Kiir has reiterated objection to any political initiative aiming at striking a new peace deal with a group allied to the former First Vice President, Riek Machar, claiming the current deal is “not dead.”

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First Vice-President Riek Machar (L) and President Salva Kiir (R) listen to the national anthem following a ceremony during which Machar was sworn in on April 26, 2016. (Phot AFP/Samir Bol)

Presidential Advisor on Security Affairs, Tut Kew Gatluak, told Sudan TribuneThursday that there was no reason to negotiate a new peace deal while the current peace agreement is being implemented..

“When people talk of a new initiative, they talk of new process it means the parties have failed to implement the first agreement, which is not the case here. The agreement is being implemented fully and moving at an exceptional speed,” said Gatluak.

The top presidential aide cited the appointment of the first vice president, appointment of the cabinet ministers, reconstitution of the parliament, acceptance of the establishment of cantonment sites for armed opposition forces and reinstatement of the former civil servants who either abandoned or rebelled in 2013 when conflict broke out, as commitment to implementing the agreement.

Gatluak said even the international community and peace guarantors do not accept the peace agreement has collapsed.

Presidential Spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, also said the government will not accept any initiative with the SPLM-IO faction loyal to Riek Machar. Ateny claimed Machar’s forces will be defeated once cantonment areas have been created according to what the presidency, involving president Kiir, Taban Deng Gai and James Wani, had agreed.

“The government would not go back to zero point. It will only continue to implement the current peace agreement. Those who will remain and choose to remain outside the cantonment sites will be defeated. All the military operations in different parts of the country by armed opposition led by Riek Machar will be defeated if they refuse to go the cantonment sites,” said Ateny on Thursday.

Meanwhile government’s spokesman doubling as the minister of information, Michael Makuei Lueth, however told reporters earlier on Wednesday that the government was ready to dialogue with any armed dissident on the condition that they denounce violence.

“The government is ready for inclusivity and by inclusivity here means bringing in those who feel that they are outside. The government is ready to negotiate with anybody provided that, that person denounces violence, because it is violence which is problematic,” explained Lueth, in a comment which contradicted those of Gatluak and Ateny.

Lueth said any aggrieved person in the country needs to present his or her case in a peaceful manner.

“If you are aggrieved, you don’t need to resort to violence, but you come forward and present your case and it will be listened to. We are not saying that we don’t want anybody. We are calling upon everybody to denounce violence and move forward so that we sit and talk as South Sudanese,” he said.

He continued: “If Riek Machar denounces violence and he wants to come, he is welcome. He is a South Sudanese; I said he is a South Sudanese. He has the right to come back to South Sudan provided that he denounces violence,” the minister said.

Speaking at the same function, the head of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), Festus Mogae, asserted that the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) was “still alive” and must be implemented.

“The agreement is alive and well, and has to be implemented. What makes the agreement alive is that there are representatives of the opposition who are involved and there are others who are currently not taking part, but they have not said they would not take part,” Mogae told reporters on Wednesday.

“We are still awaiting their arrival, I don’t need to mention names, but there were several groups who ought to have been in the meeting but who were not, but have not said they were boycotting the meeting. And so, we have said the agreement is alive because we are not giving up on the peace because there is no option anyway,” he explained.

Machar, in his response this week said both the peace agreement and the transitional government of national unity had collapsed, saying only one faction of president Kiir without his opposition faction’s party and army, have formed a new “regime” in Juba.