April 7, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, have reiterated their respective commitments to end the 15-month long civil war in the country.
The two principal leaders made reassuring separate public messages during this Easter season as final round of peace talks aimed to strike a final deal between the two warring parties is expected to resume this month in Addis Ababa.
President Kiir in his weekend message wished that the citizens celebrated the festival in peace and harmony and expressed regrets for destruction, loss of lives and stunting development projects brought by the conflict.
He said the war was “uncalled for” but came due to “greed for power” against the wish of everybody.
“It is the wish of everybody in this country, Christians and believers of other faiths that we celebrate this important moment in peace,” he said.
The president assured that he would do all that was in his reach to bring peace to the country by reaching out to those he said “went astray and took up arms against the state and the people of the republic of South Sudan.”
Meanwhile, his former deputy, Machar, who leads the rebel faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) similarly assured the South Sudanese people of his leadership’s commitment to restoring peace.
However, he said he wished the citizens of the war-ravaged country celebrated this year’s Easter festival in peace.
“It has been our wish that peace would prevail in our country during this Easter. However, we are still hopeful that peace comes soon,” Machar said in his Easter message.
Face to face negotiations between the two leaders collapsed on 6 March when they disagreed on almost every contentious issue.
They disagreed on fate of federalism as president Kiir refused implementation of a federal system of governance as part of a peace agreement. This is against Machar’s demand to establish the federal system during the interim period.
The two leaders could not also agree on the fate of the two rival armies when the opposition group proposed separate armies in the transition prior to gradual transformation and amalgamation.
Government wants reintegration of the formerly regular forces that defected minus their new recruits and the White Army which composes bulk of the rebel fighters.
Other outstanding issues included leadership structure, power and wealth-sharing, reforms in public, economic and security sectors as well as accountability and reconciliation.
The East African regional bloc of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which has been mediating the peace talks in vain for the last 14 months, said they would this time around try a new expanded IGAD-Plus mechanism to end the war.
The new mediation mechanism will include Troika countries (USA, UK and Norway), African Union (AU), European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and China.
The regional mediators hinted that negotiations may resume in mid-April amidst speculations that a draft final peace agreement may be imposed on the warring parties.
UN and Troika countries have warned of punitive measures against those who will be seen against peace agreement including targeted sanctions of travel bans and assets freeze as well as arms embargo.