South Sudan parties in talks to end stalemate over security

South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, and his First Vice President, Riek Machar, are holding discussions to end the deadlock over the security arrangements, a senior official said on Thursday.

Bol Makueng, Secretary for external affairs of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) led by President Kiir, said the two principals were already consulting each other on how to move forward on peace implementation. 

“We will be communicating among ourselves because this country belongs to all of us, the First Vice President is promising that they will work hand-in-hand with President Kiir, so that they avoid taking this country back to war again,” Makueng told journalists after meeting envoys for the United States, Norway, and Britain in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

On March 22, the main-opposition, SPLM/A-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), under Vice President Machar, withdrew from the security mechanisms, citing “unprovoked” attacks on its positions by South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF). The SPLM/A-IO also rejected the three positions within the army and police provided to it by President Kiir. 

The opposition wanted a 50:50 ratio within the unified army command as it was agreed upon by the parties during peace talks in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in 2018. 

“We have come to the conclusion to do things that are pending in the agreement, some of the challenges pertaining to security arrangements, especially the unification of forces and that is already near finishing,” said Makueng. 

He also noted that one of the main challenges they were facing was the fact that SPLM/A-IO had a huge number of senior ranking officers than private officers, thus making it difficult to quickly integrate them into the unified armed forces.

Kuol Atem, the SPLM secretary for political affairs, corroborated Makueng, saying that the various parties, bound by the 2018 revitalised peace deal, were consulting each other on how to conclude the outstanding issues, mainly the security arrangements. 

“The president and the first vice-president are in consultation, the president decreed the unification of (army) command which was rejected, but that will be resolved and the command will be one,” said Atem. 

The transitional period was set to end in February 2023, however, several critical tasks including the graduation of the unified forces, the enactment of the permanent constitution and the establishment of transitional justice mechanism were yet to be implemented. -Xinhua

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