The government of South Sudan has boycotted the second phase of the IGAD-brokered South Sudanese peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The second phase of High-Level Revitalization Forum kicked off Monday after the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement. The agreement has come under heavy criticism, with reports of violations on both sides of the warring factions accusing each other.
Sources that attended the meeting say the government’s attempt to block the process was rejected and the meeting took off without their representation.
“We were called into the meeting hall only to realize that the government delegation was not present. We inquired from the mediation team and we were told the government delegation was demanding more representation,” a source who attended the meeting said.
Sources say members of the government team said they need a bigger representation because it matters a lot for them.
IGAD had allocated 12 seats to the government team, the same numbers as the other groups.
“We asked for acceptance as we came because each and every member of the delegation has a mission for which he was selected by the government to come,” a government official who preferred anonymity said.
The government officials say the team will resume their participation in the talks once their demands are met.
The second phase of the revitalisation talks will discuss the implementation of a permanent cease-fire, deliberate on revised and realistic timeline and a schedule towards general elections in the country at the end of the interim period.
While opening the session, the head of the IGAD Council of Ministers, Workineh Gebeyehu said “It is your very last chance for peace.” And urged the parties to strike apolitical deal and to respect the cessation of hostilities.
He said if the parties squandered this chance, they would be blamed for what is happening in South Sudan.
The African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat urged team members to take the talks seriously to ensure that it succeeds.
“The commitment that was made has never been honoured. Hardly the ink had dried than clashes erupted in numerous parts of the country,” he said.
IGAD Special Envoy to South Sudan, Ismail Wais, urged the parties to desist from ceasefire violations.
“The region and the international community are ready to take punitive measures against individuals and organizations that have been verified as violators of this Agreement,” he said.
South Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition have lately listed a litany of violations allegedly committed by the government forces. The last one happened three days ago when government forces reportedly attacked the SPLA-IO positions at Bieh, Mirmir and Buoh in Koch County, Liech State.
Lt. Col. Paul Lam Gabriel said they fought with the government forces for three hours and repulsed the attackers. A string of other cases have been reported by both sides accusing each other of such violations.
South Sudan plunged into violence in 2013 after the former first vice president, Riek Machar disagreement with his boss, Gen. Salva Kiir, the president of the country, forcing millions of them into exile.