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Africa

Al-Bashir arrives in Juba for South Sudan peace talks

© AFP

Latest update : 2014-01-06

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir arrived in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on Monday for a day of talks with President Salva Kiir aimed at halting weeks of violence stemming from South Sudan's political crisis.

Bashir's government on Sunday reaffirmed Sudan's wish to see "a continuation of the political process aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict in South Sudan".

Sudan's foreign ministry also underlined the country's willingness "to offer everything in its power to ensure success of the initiative by IGAD", the East African regional bloc brokering the talks.

Government forces and rebels fought fresh battles across South Sudan on Sunday, vowing to step up their offensives as regional peace brokers struggled to get ceasefire talks off the ground.

After a night of heavy gunfire in Juba, more residents could be seen trying to get transport south to Uganda, adding to the nearly 200,000 people who have already been displaced by the three-week-old conflict.

Regional talks falter

Regional peace talks in Ethiopia have been overshadowed by continued clashes between President Salva Kiir’s SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) government forces and rebels, loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, centred around South Sudan's strategically located town of Bor.

Preliminary peace talks in Addis Ababa opened with a ceremony Saturday at a luxury hotel in the Ethiopian capital before faltering, dampening hopes for a swift end to the violence. Formal negotiations are expected to focus on when and how to roll out a ceasefire that both sides have agreed to in principle.

The head of the rebel delegation in Addis Ababa, Taban Deng Gai, has repeated Machar’s call for the release of several senior politicians allied to Machar and for the state of emergency imposed by Kiir in two states of South Sudan to be lifted.

“We ask for ... the release of political detainees and ... free movement and political space for them to join us here,” Gai said at the opening ceremony.

Western and regional powers, many of which supported the negotiations that led to South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011, are pressing for a peace deal, fearing the new fighting could slide into civil war and destabilise East Africa.

Clashes in the country have already claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, driven 200,000 from their homes and rattled oil markets.

South Sudan remains one of the continent’s least-developed countries despite its significant crude reserves, estimated by BP to be sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest.

Power struggle

The fighting first erupted on December 15 in Juba before rapidly spreading along ethnic faultlines across the country, which is about the size of France.

Kiir is from the country’s Dinka group while Machar is a Nuer. The two tribal groups have fought each other in the past for domination, influence and resources.

Kiir has accused his long-term political rival Machar, whom he dismissed in July, of attempting to stage a coup and arrested 11 senior political figures he said were involved in the alleged plot.

Machar denied the accusation but has acknowledged leading soldiers battling the government. He has accused Kiir of purging political opponents within the ruling SPLM party ahead of elections next year.

In a sign of deteriorating security, the United States on Friday ordered more of its embassy staff out of South Sudan and advised all other US citizens to leave.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

 

Date created : 2014-01-06

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