Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said he thinks he can make a difference in the stalemate between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.
Odinga is offering to mediate talks between the president and his former deputy to end the nearly 4½-year civil war in South Sudan.
He secretly visited Juba to meet with Kiir two weeks ago, just days after the warring parties failed to reach a peace deal in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei said that during the visit, Odinga indicated he wanted Kiir and Machar to reconcile the same way he and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta have reconciled after their past differences.
The EastAfrican newspaper reported that Odinga is expected to travel to South Africa this week to meet with Machar. Rebel spokesmen have said Machar is being held under house arrest by South African officials at the request of the Kiir administration. Kiir officials have denied the charge.
Makuei said he expects Odinga to have a firm grasp of the contentious issues between the warring parties before he meets with Machar. He also expects Odinga to persuade Machar to denounce violence.
“The first and most important thing is denunciation of hostilities. He [Odinga] needs to know what plans others have in mind. Within these proposals that have been presented, some of them are almost impossible to implement, and they don’t in any way amount to reaching peace soon. So, he should actually work to soften the position of the opposition,” Makuei told the VOA radio program South Sudan in Focus.
Makuei outlined which Machar positions he deemed unacceptable.
“The disbandment of all the security organs and handing over to UNMISS [U.N. Mission in South Sudan] — these are conditions that are unacceptable to any person,” Makuei told VOA. “Other demands are the dissolution of the national parliament. When you say the parliament should be dissolved, and then the seats will be allocated to us again so that we appoint new members to the parliament in accordance with the parties and power-sharing formula, definitely you are creating another problem.”
General Oyet Nathaniel, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) shadow governor for Imatong State, headed the committee on governance at the High Level Revitalization Forum. Nathaniel highlighted what issues he hopes Odinga can resolve between Kiir and Machar.
“The issues that we have been dealing with are governance issues, security issues, reform issues, how to arrest the humanitarian situation. All these are the issues at hand,” Nathaniel told South Sudan in Focus.
Makuei said the Kiir administration expects Odinga’s initiative to complement peace talks led bythe Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which ended without agreement last month in Ethiopia. The warring parties could not agree on a power-sharing structure or details about how to absorb rebel forces into the South Sudan army.