South Sudanese armed opposition leader Riek Machar has declined an invitation for an SPLM reunification meeting brokered by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni saying that his forced confinement in South Africa makes it difficult to take part in this gathering.
Machar in a letter addressed to Uganda’s technical adviser facilitating the talks for three factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) said his faction received the letter at short notice, resulting in the failure to make necessary preparations to attend the talks.
“I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 15th June 2017 inviting me or any representatives of SPLM/SPLA (IO) to attend a consultation meeting in Entebbe on 16 June 2017. However, we regret that the SPLM/SPLA (IO) will not be able to attend the meeting due to short notice,” said Machar in a letter addressed to Uganda’s technical presidential adviser for South Sudan peace initiative.
The opposition leader further said any travel outside South Africa would require intercession and high-level diplomatic efforts before he could consider travelling out of the country.
“Secondly, I cannot travel because I am still under house confinement and detention. It may take President Museveni to intercede with President Zuma and IGAD leaders to let me free to travel. Such intervention would definitely take time, that makes it impossible for me to attend the meeting of 16 June 2017,” he added.
The SPLM-IO has repeatedly condemned the confinement of its leader in Pretoria and calls to allow him to leave South African pointing to the need to have him among them to negotiate peace implementation and any other process such as the national dialogue.
The IGAD and South Sudanese government say admit the need to include the main rebel group in any political process to end the war and implement the democratic reforms agreed in the 2015 peace deal. But they reject his personal participation.
The rebel leader said a search for a sustainable peace was now the critical priority than the reconciliation of the SPLM factions or implementation of the “collapsed agreement.”
He reiterated his commitment to peace in the country and urged Ugandan government to consider supporting a new political process for peace talks to peacefully resolve the ongoing conflict in the country after the resumption of the conflict in July 2016 when he forced to flee.
This is the second attempt by the Ugandan president aimed reconciling and bringing together the three factions after President Salva Kiir has asked his intervention.
Between 25 and 26 May 2017, Museveni hosted a meeting aimed at the reunification of the different factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). But the Former Political Detainees (FDs) faction of the SPLM, declined to sign a deal reached at the meeting calling for the inclusiveness of the process. The meeting excluded Machar group while the SPLM-IO of Taban Deng Gai participated in the encounter.
Daniel Awet Akot, one of the leading party officials at the talks tsaid on Friday that the discussions were at the preparatory stage to form a working committee that will develop a work-plan on the implementation of the reunification agreement which the three main factions signed in Arusha, Tanzania on 21 January 2015.
“The talks are continuing. There is nothing to share with the public now but I am optimistic there is going to a positive result after holding frank discussions, which is what is taking place. We are now for a break. So wait until discussions are concluded. There will be a joint statement,” said Akot.
The representatives of the factions, he said, are reviewing a document prepared by the ruling party in Uganda on implementing the reunification agreement.
Akot himself was one of the representatives accompanying acting Secretary General Jemma Nunu Kumba and former Upper Nile Governor Simon Kun as the three-member representative of the faction under President Kiir. The SPLM IO faction under Taban Deng Gai was represented by its Secretary General Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol while Pagan Amum led the team representing former detainees.
The meeting aims at working out the roadmap for the implementation of Arusha Agreement.