‘Breakthrough’ involves concession to SPLM-IO
The ‘breakthrough’ announced by East African peace mediators last week at a meeting in South Sudan’s capital city Juba involves a concession by the SPLM-Juba faction to its rival SPLM-IO.
Hitherto the nature of the ‘breakthrough’ announced by mediators last Wednesday has neither been officially disclosed nor widely reported. The announcement of the breakthrough was made after a ‘mini-summit’ of East African (IGAD) leaders with Salva Kiir, head of the SPLM-Juba faction.
According to a senior source within SPLM-Juba, Kiir has now agreed to allow his rival Riek Machar to serve as the country’s prime minister provided that Machar recognize Kiir himself in the position of president.
Last August SPLM-Juba already agreed to concede the position of prime minister to a nominee of SPLM-IO, in accordance with the Protocol on Principles on Transitional Arrangements, but did not agree specifically that Machar could be the nominee.
The Protocol instead said that the SPLM-IO nominee “shall be acceptable to the President ” – while Kiir suggested that Machar would not be acceptable.
Kiir has since changed his position, according to two sources.
“The ‘breakthrough’ is that Salva agreed Riek could be Prime Minister,” an informed source told Radio Tamazuj.
The August Protocol could now be revised to prevent the president from vetoing the opposition group’s nominee for prime minister, he confirmed.
The other source, within the SPLM-Juba faction, likewise said that the president would not object to a revision to the terms of the Protocol, removing his right to veto the nominee of the SPLM-IO for the position of prime minister.
Under the terms of such a peace agreement, Kiir would appoint the prime minister on the basis of the nomination of SPLM-IO. He would not necessarily be expressly granted any power to decline the nomination.
For its part, SPLM-IO has previously rejected any draft deal that would maintain Kiir in the presidency; but it appears now that the opposition group is prepared to consider acceptance of a deal under these terms.
A senior figure in the group, Ezekiel Gatkuoth, in a statement to Upper Nile Times, said: “The IGAD leaders… informed us that Salva Kiir fully agreed to share power with Riek Machar. This means that Riek Machar will become the Prime Minister and Kiir becoming the president.”
“Now given these concessions, the details of power sharing formula… should be negotiated in good faith in Addis Ababa to return the country to normalcy. We hope that the agreement will finally be sealed,” he reportedly stated.
Meanwhile, at the recently concluded SPLM-IO leadership meeting in Nairobi, the opposition group has reportedly resolved to recommit itself to the IGAD mediated peace process.
Second major compromise
Kiir’s latest concession follows another concession made to the SPLM-IO at the last round of peace talks: reversal of a controversial article of the August Protocol.
Article 6 of the Protocol stated, “The Prime Minister will not be eligible to stand for any public office in the national elections at the end of the Transitional Period.”
The clause was objectionable to Riek Machar because he intended not only to hold the position of Prime Minister but also to run for the presidency at the end of the transitional period, fulfilling his stated ambition to rule the country.
SPLM-Juba accepted the Protocol, whereas SPLM-IO rejected it, in part because of the mentioned clause.
Radio Tamazuj is informed that this clause of the Protocol was effectively reversed at the peace held talks in Bahir Dar from late September into October. The parties there agreed that the prime minister would be eligible to run for public office after the transitional period.
There have been no reported developments in the peace process since last week’s ‘mini-summit’ of Uhuru Kenyatta, Hailemariam Desalegn, Ruhakana Rugunda and Salva Kiir, held in the South Sudanese capital Juba.
Inclusive ‘roundtable’ talks under the IGAD auspices have been adjourned since earlier this month. They were initially rescheduled to resume on 16 October but have been repeatedly delayed.
At the moment the talks are expected to wait until after an upcoming summit of the IGAD Heads of State and Government, which is reportedly yet to be scheduled.
East African leaders meeting at the upcoming summit are expected to follow up on the ‘breakthrough’ reached in Juba last week; their summit resolutions may impact the following round of talks.
File photo: Salva Kiir and Riek Machar at the 9 May signing of a deal to end the conflict in South Sudan and begin talks on formation of a transitional government.