South Sudan’s rival parties began two days of talks in Addis Ababa yesterday in a bid to salvage a peace deal, with just days left before a unity government is meant to be formed.
President Salva Kiir, rebel leader Riek Machar and a handful of other groups inked the peace deal in September 2018, the latest in a string of efforts to end a devastating conflict now in its sixth year.
But the parties have failed to resolve several crunch issues before a power-sharing government is to be installed on May 12.
Representatives of the parties gathered in Addis for a meeting called by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc for East Africa, holding prayers before going into a closed session.
Government has insisted the meeting focus on how to push forward with the formation of the unity government.
Machar’s camp, though, wants a six-month delay to resolve security and other issues that, it says, prevent him from making his return.
Machar is living in exile in Khartoum, having been hounded out of Juba in a hail of gunfire in 2016 when a prior deal collapsed. He is supposed to return as first vice president under the new deal.
Battles between members of Machar’s Nuer community and Kiir’s Dinka people were characterised by brutal violence on both sides, rape and UN warnings about “ethnic cleansing”. The fighting has killed around 380,000 people and forced more than four million South Sudanese -- almost a third of the population -- to flee their homes.