JUBA – The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) has rejected a proposal by South African vice president that the dispute on the number of states be resolved through arbitration.
This is a boost for the SPLM-IO led by ex-vice president Riek Machar who also rejected the proposal before to call for a regional protection force to be deployed in Juba and other towns before the unity government be formed in February.
In a statement yesterday, Josephine Lagu, the chairperson of the 8-member alliance said her group was not ready to participate in the unity government unless the number and boundaries of states is resolved. Below is the full statement as delivered to Sudans Post!
“The issue of the number and boundaries of States in South Sudan has been and continues to be a contentious issue. The Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC) which was tasked to resolve the issue did an excellent job but could not reach a conclusive decision on the number of States. Hence, it recommended to the IGAD Secretariat to convene a meeting of the Parties so as to resolve the matter.
“This was on 20 June 2019. It took IGAD three months to convene the Parties on 18 September 2019 in Juba, a meeting that the government boycotted. The second meeting was on 2 – 4 December 2019 which was mediated by the South African Deputy President. The meeting made a lot of progress and a consensus emerged between the Parties on adopting the former districts in Southern Sudan as States for the Transitional Period. The only odd party out was none other than the government which insisted on its way.
“It refused to consider any compromise on its 32 States position. Given this intransigence from the government the Deputy President of South Africa declared the adjournment of the discussions for a week or so for more consultations.
“In the meantime the Deputy President asked the Parties to present written positions on or before the 13th of January 2020 on their original positions of the number of States and possible compromise positions they can consider. The Parties complied. Therefore, when a meeting was convened to take place on the 14th of January, the Parties were expecting the mediator to discuss the responses made by the Parties and consider the way forward. This was not to be. The Deputy President pulled a surprise when after meeting President Salva Kiir on Thursday the 16th announced a new proposal.
“The proposal entails referring the issue of the number of States to arbitration. The arbitration committee was to comprise the African Union’s C 5, Troika and the Special Envoys for South Sudan. And that the Committee will complete its task in 90 days that will go into the Transitional Period. The delegations of SSOA, Other Political Parties (OPP) and FDs who were kept waiting since the 15th morning were briefed by the Deputy President in the evening of the 16th and were given seven days to respond. The attendance were dumbfounded and flabbergasted by the audacity of the proposal.
“The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) would like to make it abundantly clear that it considers the proposal on arbitration as a non-starter. The Parties have not reached a deadlock. On the contrary, a consensus has emerged in the December meeting which must be pursued with vigour and impartiality by the mediators. We are looking forward to that. The following observations are made about the proposal: First, any impartial mediator would have weighed the various positions of the Parties and try to propose a bridging proposal that would narrow the difference between the parties. This proposal is nowhere near to such a course of action.
“The proposal presented by the Deputy President bears no relation to the previous discussions. Second, the parties suggested to conduct the arbitration have been involved in the mediation since the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) commenced in June 2017. They can only act as facilitators or mediators as the Deputy President of South Africa now is.
“It would have made sense if the idea was for them to work out a compromise proposal that they can table before the Parties to consider. Third, if arbitration was at all necessary it could be done in a week or two as the parties suggested to be members are fully aware of the status of the talks. We feel the pain of our people and live their suffering that is why we have been making one concession after the other so as to attain the peace they are yearning for.”
“The issue of the number of States needs only a political will to take a decision, not arbitration. We are for the formation of the Transitional Government on time, but only after resolving the issue of the number and boundaries of the States and concluding the formation and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF).”