South Sudanese opposition leader Riek Machar announced late Friday that he expects to reach a “final agreement” with his rival Salva Kiir, saying most of the disputed points of a proposed power-sharing deal have been settled.
This comes after two days of high-level talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which failed to result in a final deal but ended with announcements of “progress.”
Regional bloc IGAD, which has been trying for about ten months to broker a peace deal among the South Sudanese factions, announced in a communiqué that its leaders have agreed to grant rivals Machar and Kiir a period of 15 additional days “to complete consultations” on the power-sharing proposal.
Chief Mediator Seyoum Mesfin, the former foreign minister of Ethiopia, said that only a few issues remain to be negotiated. He explained that the parties are now expected to deliberate internally on whether to accept the proposed deal.
IGAD mediators have proposed a structure in which the SPLM-Juba faction will retain the presidency while SPLM-IO will be given the newly created position of prime minister. According to a version of the power-sharing proposal obtained by Radio Tamazuj on Friday, the president and prime minister each will have certain functions, while other functions will be jointly exercised.
In remarks at the conclusion of the two-day IGAD summit meeting, SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar said, “I am happy to announce that we have reached an agreement on one important issue which will make us pursue the rest of the topics, and this is Transitional Government of National Unity.”
“I am happy today that we have cleared the functions of the government, even if we have some issues to pursue in the next 15 days – consultation with our constituencies. I am confident that we will reach the final agreement,” he said.
According to the chief mediator, this period for consultations is necessary to secure further support within each faction: “Bringing them on board and seeing eye to eye on all issues is very critical to give guarantee and solid support to the agreement. I think it was wise, it was wise and necessary – 15 days is not a big deal.”
Asked whether Kiir and Machar had agreed on the powers of the president and prime minister during the transitional period, Mesfin said, “Indeed, yes: on the powers, here and there there will be touching and clearing the document on the structure in particular – they need to negotiate and it’s not a big deal, we are confident that they will achieve it soon.”
For his part, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Mesfin’s successor at the Ethiopian foreign ministry, announced, “the negotiating parties agreed on most of the issues to form transitional unity government and resolve pending issues in 15 days.”
Meanwhile, Salva Kiir announced, “What we committed ourselves to is actually to end the conflict in South Sudan and stop the war with immediate effect, as it has been directed by the IGAD leaders, it is naturally an order that we have to abide by.”
“I therefore call upon all the forces in South Sudan and especially the SPLM or the SPLA forces – that is the national army of South Sudan – and all other regular forces to remain in their barracks as from this hour, and not to be found outside their barracks,” added Kiir.
He did not comment on the particulars of the proposed power-sharing deal but mentioned his agreement with the IGAD communiqué, which calls for the warring parties to consult internally on the proposal for a period of 15 days.