Even as parties prepare for the third phase of the South Sudan revitalisation programme later this month, concerns linger over the impartiality of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development countries in brokering talks with President Salva Kiir.
Most of the groups in the talks — South Sudan youth organisations and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) led by Riek Machar, opposition parties and the civil society — have been pushing for the talks to be removed from Igad, arguing it’s malleable to President Kiir.
Gabriel Dak, a member of the Senior Youth of South Sudan lobby group, said they have been lobbying for the peace talks to be handed over to the African Union and the United Nations.
Key Igad partner states — Kenya and Uganda — are being perceived to have taken President Kiir’s side.
The UN special advisor for prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, have specifically singled out Kenya and Uganda for fuelling the conflict by facilitating the flow of arms to South Sudan.
“Violence is likely to continue throughout South Sudan in part because some neighbouring countries are helping to arm government forces,” said Mr Guterres in a statement to the UN Security Council on February 27.
However, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Foreign Affairs Monica Juma termed the allegations unfortunate and misguided.
“The situation in South Sudan remains extremely complex and such unhelpful statements must be avoided at this critical time in pursuit of a credible and all-inclusive peace process.
Kenya and neighbouring countries have had their patience tested to the limit, but have continued to soldier on without showing any signs of fatigue,” said Dr Juma.
The first phase of the Igad revitalisation programme was convened from February 5 to 16 to revisit the collapsed 2015 peace agreement with the objective of restoring a permanent ceasefire; incorporate all armed and unarmed interest groups and develop a realistic timeline and implementation schedule towards democratic elections at the end of the transitional period in October.
The three key outstanding issues that must be agreed on in the next round of talks are security arrangements to enforce the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in December last year; the restructuring of the transitional government and the power-sharing percentages.