There are doubts as to whether a planned extraordinary Igad Summit on South Sudan will take off in Addis Ababa on June 12 after President Salva Kiir declined to attend it, citing a busy schedule.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn had written to all parties inviting them for the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development meeting to deliberate on the security and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.
“The Summit is expected to deliberate on the dire security and humanitarian situation facing South Sudan. The deteriorating security situation has resulted in sharp increase of internally displaced persons and refugees, requiring Igad leaders to speak with one voice to abate the crisis,” said Mr Hailemariam in his invitation letter.
But President Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said the president would send a team to represent him as he was busy. By press time, the team was yet to be constituted.
Earlier, President Kiir had expressed concerns that Igad member states were partisan. Juba has been resisting attempts by the African Union and the UN to reopen dialogue, which would include rebel leader Dr Riek
Mr Hailemariam said the implementation of the 2015 peace deal in South Sudan is lagging behind and that the fighting is still continuing, despite a declaration of ceasefire and attempts to re-invigorate dialogue.
Consultation between Igad and AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki and UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, had concluded that the region must lead the way towards dialogue to solve the problem in South Sudan, with support from the international community.
But The EastAfrican has gathered that President Kiir was persuaded not to attend by the Jieng Council of Elders, who believe that with the AU and UN coming out to take over the initiative from Igad, there is a strong possibility that he will be forced to make concessions and allow Dr Machar back into the picture.
A divided army
There is also the danger the army is still divided following the sacking in May of former chief of general staff, Gen Paul Malong Awan, and there is a possibility that some of his supporters in the army could be planning a coup.
Others claim the main reason for the president’s absence stems from fear that he could be blocked from returning home since the army is divided after he sacked Gen Malong.
Biel Boutros Biel, a South Sudanese human-rights lawyer said that it is important to renegotiate aspects of the August 2015 peace agreement, especially the security and leadership provisions.
“There is a leadership crisis that requires a common political process to stop bleeding and put in place a new political interim leadership to restore peace in the country.
It is obvious that Kiir and Machar won’t work together any more unless under an external force that can execute sanctions against the two leaders and their allies,” said Biel.