By Taddeo Bwambale
The nine political detainees held by the Government of South Sudan for allegedly plotting to oust President Salva Kiir have called for ‘unconditional talks’ to end fighting in the country.
An IGAD mediation team, during its two-day visit to Juba, said in a statement on Thursday that the detainees had asked negotiation teams to proceed with talks without them.
The release of the detainees was one of the conditions set by a delegation representing Kiir’s rival, Riek Machar in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for formal peace talks on Monday.
The IGAD mediation team led by its chairperson, Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, IGAD Special Envoys Gen. Lazaro Sumbeiywo and Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Moustafa El Dabi, and the IGAD Executive Secretary Ambassador (Eng.) Mahboub Maalim, were in Juba on a fact-finding mission on Tuesday and Wednesday.
According to the statement, the Mediation team, met President Kiir, who maintained that the crisis was of a political nature and pledged support to find a political solution.
“The President expressed his government’s commitment to unconditional negotiations on cessation of hostilities to bring an end to violence in his country,” the statement said.
The envoys later met the detainees and held candid discussions on the crisis, during which the detainees ‘concurred that the crisis is indeed a political one requiring political solution.’
A part of an internally displaced persons' camp on the compounds of the United Nations base in Juba. PHOTO/AFP
Taban Deng (R) head of South Sudan rebellion's delegation gives a press conference. PHOTO/AFP
IGAD envoys, Seyoum Mesfin (R) and Lazarus Sumbeywo give a press confrence in Addis Ababa. PHOTO/AFP
“In light of the ongoing peace talks in Addis Ababa, the detainees expressed their support to the talks on unconditional cessation of hostilities and further stated that their status as detainees should not be an impediment to reaching an agreement on cessation of hostilities,” the statement says.
Although Machar’s team has insisted on the release of the nine officials claiming that they are key members of his working team, government has called for talks ‘with no strings attached.’
The mediation team said there had been ‘major progress’ on the issue of cessation of hostilities as both the government and the detainees want unconditional negotiations.
South Sudan’s ambassador to Uganda, Samuel Luate on Wednesday, maintained Government would not release the nine detainees who are members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), saying they were facing corruption charges.
Luate said the detainees were due to face trial by the country’s courts of law after conclusion of investigations into their alleged involvement in corruption and subversive activities.
Out of 11 politicians arrested by the Government of South Sudan in December, two officials have since been released.
Peace talks in Addis Ababa continue on Thursday, in spite of fighting reported in parts of South Sudan and forces loyal to Machar.