East African Leaders To Meet Over South Sudan Crisis

Leaders of the East African countries belonging to the regional bloc the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are expected to meet within days to consider ‘punitive measures’ against the warring parties in South Sudan.

Regional leaders at a past Igad meeting in Nairobi. East African heads of state gathered March 13, 2013
Regional leaders at a past Igad meeting in Nairobi. East African heads of state gathered March 13, 2013

The planned meeting is announced a day after the United States, Norway, and the United Kingdom issued statements urging East African countries to take action against the warring parties in South Sudan.

In an unusually harsh statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry faulted both sides for their failure to settle their differences and to meet an Aug. 10 deadline to form a transitional national unity government. “Deadlines keep passing and innocent people keep dying yet neither party engaged in peace talks seriously.” John Kerry stated yesterday.

“Regional leaders have previously called for punitive measures if the parties failed to secure peace by the agreed deadline. I call on IGAD and the African Union to immediately take appropriate action to bring peace to the people of South Sudan.” His statement read in part.

Nearly identical statements have been issued from Norway and Britain after the failure by South Sudan’s government and rebels to form a transitional government by Sunday’s deadline, calling it “an outrage and an insult to their citizens.”

Although, the exact date of the meeting is not yet confirmed, South Sudanese presidential spokesman Ateny Wek is quoted by Sudanese radio Tamazuj saying that Salva Kiir will be heading to Ethiopia this weekend to attend the meeting.

The spirit of the meeting is in line with sentiments by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn that East African leaders at the upcoming meeting would “take strong action” against the warring parties, which include Salva Kiir’s SPLM/A-Juba faction and his rival Riek Machar’s SPLM/A-in-Opposition.

Hailemariam said that IGAD has prepared a “proposal” for the establishment of a transitional government of national unity in South Sudan. If this proposal is rejected, then “punitive action” will follow, he said.

“If the parties do not agree on the proposal that the region has put in place, then the region is going to take strong action, as we have put in the IGAD summit, punitive action that has to be taken immediately after convening the meeting of IGAD heads of state and government in Addis Ababa very soon after this summit,” Hailemariam said.

At least 10,000 people have been killed since fierce fighting erupted in South Sudan in December, pitting President Salva Kiir’s government forces against supporters of Riek Machar, his former deputy and longtime political rival.

Meanwhile, the IGAD-brokered peace process continued in Addis Ababa yesterday, one day after the expiry of the IGAD deadline for the formation of a transitional government.

It’s reported that the parties sat together again on Monday to hear presentations by experts on various issues related to conflict resolution.

But observers say that the negotiation has not started since the parties have not yet negotiated the term of the mandate of the transitional government.

Other related issues such as the structure and composition of the transitional government have likewise not yet been negotiated. Instead they are listening to presentations from various ‘resource persons’ on issues such as security arrangements, constitutional law, and economic affairs.

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