Thursday, February 6, 2014

Released SPLM leaders to participate in S. Sudan talks: mediators

Thursday 6 February 2014

Released SPLM leaders to participate in S. Sudan talks: mediators

February 5, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA/JUBA) - IGAD peace mediators invited the recently released seven leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-In-Opposition) to participate in the peace talks after delaying it for three days.
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Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta (C) receives seven of the 11 political leaders accused of plotting a failed military coup in South Sudan in December, in Nairobi on 29 January 2014. Also pictured is retired Kenyan general Lazaro Sumbeiywo (second right) and director-general of Kenya’s National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) Michael Gichangi at far right (Photo: AP/Kenyan presidency)
On 29 January, Juba released seven SPLM figures accused with four others who remain in jail of plotting to overthrow the regime of president Salva Kiir, a charge they denied. Their release came after an agreement signed by the two warring parties in South Sudan on 23 January where they admit the role they "can play in the ongoing political dialogue".
Following a visit to Nairobi where they met with the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the three Ethiopian, Kenyan and Sudanese IGAD Special Envoys met with the seven SPLM-in-Opposition leaders to discuss the next round of talks which will start on 10 February instead of the 7th of this month as it had been initially announced.
"The released detainees expressed their commitment to be part of the IGAD mediation process for political dialogue and national reconciliation in the Republic of South Sudan," said a statement the mediators released on Wednesday.
"In light of this, the mediation team has sent them an invitation letter to participate in the political process and they have confirmed", they added.
The IGAD envoys further disclosed their plans to visit Juba to meet president Salva Kiir Mayardit and other government officials. Also, they will meet with the former vice-president and rebel leader Riek Machar .
The meetings with the South Sudanese parties aim to discuss the framework of the second round of talks where the parties are supposed to discuss the root causes of the conflict, particularly issues of democratic reforms and transparency in the country.
Civil society groups and religious leaders said they want to be part of this process to discuss the organisation of the young state and the needed political and social reforms. It is not clear if they will be part of the political talks or will have a consultative role in a separate forum for stakeholders.
On 2 February, an advance team of the IGAD technical committee arrived in Juba to establish the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism for the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January.
The 14-member team led by the Ethiopian Major General (rtd) Gebreegzabher Mebrahtu and his deputy the Sudanese Major General Mohammed Amin Moustafa Eltinay will assess the situation and determine the sites of monitoring before the deployment of the military observers in the conflict areas.
The advance team will report back to the IGAD mediators in Addis Ababa on 7 February with recommendations on the way forward.
South Sudan information minister Michael Makuei Lueth in a press conference held in Juba on Wednesday regretted the delay in the set up of the monitoring teams.
"We agreed to set up a monitoring and verification mechanism to monitor the conformity of the parties with the agreement to monitor whatever violations that may happen. Unfortunately, this body is not yet set up; up to now," he said.
Lueth further said there was no agreement on the "advance team", adding that Juba finds it strange to cooperate with teams whose composition was not part of the signed documents.
Thursday 6 February 2014

S. Sudan sets no preconditions for talks with armed opposition

February 5, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s government has no preconditions ahead of the second round of peace talks with armed anti-government forces, Vice President James Wani Igga said on Wednesday.
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South Sudan VP James Wani Igga (second left), SPLM-DC Chairperson Lam Akol (second right), Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth (L) and an unidentified opposition politicians at a press conference in Juba on February 5, 2014 (ST)
Speaking at a press conference, Igga, who is also the second deputy chairperson of ruling SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement), says the government team will listen to "aggrieved party".
"They will tell us what they want", said Igga, referring to the SPLM/A in Opposition who are led by former vice president Riek Machar who assumed control of a series of defections caused by fighting with the army in Juba in mid-December.
"They are the aggrieved party and we shall first listen from them and we shall respond," he added.
Riek Machar, who is accused by the government of president Salva Kiir of staging a failed coup in December, demands his former boss’s resignation as a condition for ending six weeks of armed confrontations with forces loyal to the government.
Igga, who replaced Machar as Vice President in August last year after Machar and the rest of the cabinet was sacked in July, said that any change of the leadership of world’s youngest nation must come through elections due in 2015.
The SPLM overwhelmingly won election in 2010, which occurred as part of the peace deal that ended decades of civil war and led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. However, many analysts believe that elections served to solidify the SPLM’s position ahead of the upcoming independence referendum rather than help democratise either the former rebel movement-turned-ruling-party or the nation’s institutions.
In a show of solidarity with ruling SPLM, members of opposition parties agreed on December 21 to work with the government to find an amicable settlement to the current political turmoil that spilled over into the armed forces on December 15.
The leader of the SPLM-DC, South Sudan’s largest opposition party, by representation in parliament, Lam Akol, says that the current situation had produced a rare show of unity between the country’s political parties.
"The South Sudanese people with their resilience, with their determination, with their unity, with their clear vision, they stood together. And I think this is a very important achievement for us," said Lam Akol in reference to alliance opposition political parties have shown with the SPLM since December.
Akol who had been in exile for most of South Sudan’s independence returned to Juba just weeks before the current conflict started.
Over one million people have been displaced by the fighting according the United Nations. The number of dead is unknown but International Crisis Group has estimated that some 10,000 people have died.
"Although the whole trouble started in the house of SPLM, but at the end it engulfed the whole country. Anything affecting the entire country is not more the affair of SPLM," said James Wani Igga.
Machar and other internal opponents of President Kiir’s leadership had become increasingly vocal in their criticism of his leadership, describing his "dictatorial tendencies" in a press conference in early December.
A planned rally was postponed after Kiir called meeting of senior SPLM officials in Juba but after three days of debates over leadership issues and the passing of the parties internal documents, which ended when fighting began on December 15.
The political issues at the route of the conflict are expected to discussed when talks resume this week, following a shaky ceasefire deal signed on January 23 which both sides appear to have violated.


Thursday 6 February 2014

Bashir refuses to grant the US special envoy a visa to Sudan: Carter

February 5, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The former United States president Jimmy Carter has revealed that the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir rejected his personal appeal to grant the US special envoy for the Sudans Donald Booth a visa to meet with officials in his government.
Bashir recalled to Carter Washington’s refusal to issue him a visa to travel to New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings and pointed that US officials would not deal with him directly among other grievances.
Western officials generally avoid meeting with Bashir as a result of the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant charging him with war crimes and genocide in Darfur. The US dragged its feet in processing his visa request for UNGA last year for the same reason.
Last November, media reports claimed that Khartoum refused to grant Booth a visa for planned talks with Sudanese officials on post-secession issues with South Sudan as well as the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur and South Kordofan.
The reports quoted unnamed officials as saying that Khartoum informed Washington that any role for the US should begin with seeking to normalize bilateral ties between the two countries and addressing the issue of unilateral sanctions and Sudan’s inclusion on a blacklist of states that sponsor terrorism.
They also asserted that issues that are considered domestic matters should not be raised during talks by Booth.
According to a report issued by Carter on his trip to Dubai and Khartoum between January 11-25, the ex-president had received assurances from Bashir that he will conduct a genuine national dialogue and seek peaceful solutions for internal conflicts and with neighboring countries as well as encouraging all opposition force to engage in this dialogue.
Carter said in his report that Sudan’s parliament speaker, al-Fatih Izz al-Din, had committed to draft a new constitution with broad participation from the opposition parties prior to the 2015 elections, saying that Izz Al-Din was keen to exchange expertise with US legislators.
He also asserted commitment of Bashir, Izz Al-Din, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) secretary of foreign relations, al-Dirdeeri Mohamed Ahmed, and the presidential assistant Abdel-Rahman al-Mahdi, to conduct a just and genuine national dialogue besides drafting a new constitution and holding general elections.
Last December, the NCP announced that it is developing a comprehensive reform document which it described as historic. The announcement came in the wake of a government shakeup that saw the departure of several long-time NCP figures from their governmental posts.
Bashir addressed the nation last week announcing a 4-point plan for reform "to stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalize national identity", calling for political forces to engage in dialogue to agree on the implementation items though he did not specify practical steps to do so.
But the opposition figures who attended the speech made statements either personally or through their parties criticizing the lack of specifics and excessive generalities that gave no real signs of concessions on the part of the ruling party.
The opposition alliance said it wouldn’t enter into dialogue with the NCP until the latter abolishes all laws that restrict freedoms, release all political detainees, launch an investigation into the killing of demonstrators in September 2013 riots, enter into comprehensive negotiations to end the war in the different conflict zones, address the humanitarian situation and agreeing to full transitional status.

South Sudan rebels claim 700 government troops defect

25 minutes ago
Government forces loyal to South Sudan's President Salva Kiir patrol on February 5, 2014 the area near Mingkaman to prevent attacks by rebel forces
Government forces loyal to South Sudan's President Salva Kiir patrol on February 5, 2014 the area near Mingkaman to prevent attacks by rebel forces (AFP Photo/Fabio Bucciarelli)
Juba (AFP) - Rebels fighting government troops in South Sudan said Thursday that 700 men from the government side have defected with all their equipment and were heading to join the rebels.
"Kiir’s army has suffered its biggest yet mass defection since the current conflict began on 15th December," rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said in a statement.
Koang said the defectors "engineered an internal revolt, opened fire on loyalist soldiers and in the process killed the commanding officer with the rank of colonel."
The men then "joined the rebellion with their equipment", which included 16 trucks and pickups, some of them mounted with machine guns, the statement said.
There was no immediate independent confirmation of the claim.
Koang said the men mutinied in Lakes state on Wednesday while they were being sent to fight the rebels in Panyijar county in neighbouring Unity state.
They are now in the process of joining the rebels in Unity state, he said.
In a separate incident Wednesday government forces and allied militia attacked rebel defensive positions in the northern part of Jonglei state, close to the border with Upper Nile, Koang said.
He said the rebel forces repulsed the attack, killing 60 government soldiers in the process. There was no independent confirmation of this claim.
Fighting erupted in South Sudan in mid-December between two factions of the army -- troops loyal to president Salva Kiir and those who supported his former deputy Riek Machar, himself a seasoned guerrilla fighter.
It quickly spread throughout the country as the rebels, under the nominal command of Machar, joined forces with ethnic militia.
A ceasefire agreement in January failed to put an end to the fighting, in which thousands have died and almost 900,000 been forced to flee their homes.

South Sudan is medium-term frontier of choice for Randgold: CEO

By Ed Stoddard and Silvia Antonioli 5 hours ago
By Ed Stoddard and Silvia Antonioli
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Africa-focused bullion producer Randgold Resources says South Sudan is its first choice as a country to explore and mine for gold, chief executive Mark Bristow said, estimating that the conflict there will be over in four to five years.
Since secession from Sudan in 2011, the country has been wracked by a power struggle between the government and rebels, and thousands of people have been killed and 800,000 displaced since last December.
Bristow however said there was a good chance stability will return in the medium term, unlike in the Central African Republic, where he thought conflicts would last longer and which was "politically and infrastructurally challenged".
Asked where he would like to expand the company's presence into next, he said, "South Sudan, without a doubt."
"South Sudan, geologically is very attractive. We think in the longer term, when you look at the political side of it, the impasse and crisis will be resolved," he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba conference.
"South Sudan has already got infrastructure and it's a trading route and it's got long-standing connection into Kenya, Uganda, even the Democratic Republic of Congo."
Randgold, with gold mines in Ivory Coast, Mali and Congo, said it would spend $60 million on exploration in 2014, unlike many gold producers that are tightening their purses, hit by a more than 20 percent drop in the gold price in a year.
In the short term, Randgold is focusing on ramping up its new Kibali mine in Congo, a joint venture with AngloGold Ashanti and Congolese state-owned company, Sokimo.
The company said it is also already working with the Congolese to government to get additional permits.
For the medium term though South Sudan was the most attractive option, Bristow said.
"We have been there to pick up some information. We are talking with all the juniors who were there ... We don't need to go there yet but in four to five years' time...," he said.
Elsewhere in Africa, he said he would avoid Ghana, where its peer AngloGold is struggling with a loss-making mine, and Guinea, although geologically interesting was still too unstable politically, he said.

Ex-Rwanda intel chief has genocide trial in Paris

PARIS (AP) — With a hoist from two bailiffs, Rwanda's disabled former intelligence chief was placed in a courtroom wheelchair Tuesday — and France opened its first trial over the African country's genocide.
Associated Press

UN Congo peacekeepers question Rwandan rebel disarmament claim

By Chrispin Mvano GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Senior members of a Rwandan Hutu rebel force based in eastern Congo said on Tuesday they had started laying down their arms and were ready for talks with Kigali, but U.N. peacekeepers said they had seen no signs of disarmament. The…

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