Monday, September 22, 2014

South Sudan peace talks resume in Ethiopia - Middle East Online

Stop-start peace talks are being held in Bahir Dar after accusations peace delegates run huge bills in luxury hotels in Addis Ababa.
Middle East Online
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ADDIS ABABA - Talks aimed at ending South Sudan's civil war resumed in Ethiopia on Monday, mediators said, as sporadic fighting continued to rage between rebel and government fighters in the oil-rich country.
The talks have been on hold since late August, when President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a new ceasefire deal -- the fourth since fighting began nine months ago -- and forge a unity government by October 9.
On Saturday east Africa's regional IGAD bloc, which has been mediating the talks, denounced ongoing "senseless fighting" in South Sudan and complained that hostilities appeared to flare each time talks were on the verge of resuming.
The talks are now being held in the northwestern Ethiopian town of Bahir Dar, having been shifted away from the capital Addis Ababa -- where peace delegates have been accused of running up huge bills in luxury hotels and not being serious about peace.
According to European diplomats, the talks have so far cost close to 20 million euros.
Taking part are delegations from the government, rebels, political parties and civil society groups, who are supposed to be discussing the formation of a 'Transitional Government of National Unity'.
"What is very important now is the issue of the president and the prime minister. We shall discuss the issues of appointment and powers of the prime minister. If that is agreed, that will be a step forward," said Taban Deng, a former governor of Unity State who now leads the opposition delegation.
The government meanwhile accused the rebels of systematic ceasefire violations.
"We are expecting the mediation and the rebels and all the other stakeholders to respect and abide by the protocol and the rebels to commit to the matrix so that a cessation of hostilities is operationalised," said South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei, a member of the government delegation.
Fighting broke out in the world's youngest nation in December 2013 following a clash between Kiir's troops and fighters loyal to Machar. The war spread rapidly across the country and has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities by both sides.
Previous ceasefire agreements have all been broken, and efforts to form a unity government have so far failed.
As the power struggle between Kiir and Machar continues, the United Nations has said that the country's food crisis is the "worst in the world" and aid workers have warned of the risk of famine.
Thousands of people have been killed and more than 1.8 million have fled.

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