South Africa Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived in the South Sudan capital, Juba on Monday to help bolster the reunification efforts within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement(SPLM).
The reunification will be done under the signed November Arusha document after the party split, plunging the youngest country into more than two years of civil conflict.
SPLM Secretary of Information, Bol Makueng told Xinhua that Ramaphosa who is in the country as President Jacob Zuma’s Special Envoy is holding separate talks with President Salva Kiir’s faction and former rebels led by first-Vice President Riek Machar.
“They are meeting with people separately. On our side they asked us on the challenges and progress so far made and we told them we have made progress on the re-unification efforts. The Arusha Agreement has been included in the constitution,” Makueng revealed.
The two rival parties signed the August 2015 peace deal under UN pressure that leaves President Kiir and returns Machar as deputy but the SPLM-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO)led by the latter cites the controversial creation of 28 states and drafting of the SPLM constitution and manifesto prior to their return to Juba as violation of the peace deal and the Arusha pact.
The former spokesperson of the SPLM-IO advance team, William Ezekiel, welcomed Ramaphosa’s visit but said a lot of issues remain contentious despite having formed the transitional unity government in April.
“We still have challenges on the issue of creation of 28 states. We came to Juba as part of the reunification agreement but to our surprise the government went ahead to unilaterally draft the SPLM party constitution and manifesto. We were not part and parcel of that process,” Ezekiel decried.
He added government continues to dispute and deny them cantonment areas in greater Bahr El-Ghazal and Equatoria regions and cautioned that provocative clashes like the recent fighting between their forces and the South Sudan Liberation Army (SPLA) in North-Rubkoena, Unity State may continue unabated if ceasefire mechanism is not respected by the two parties.
“As long as there is no clear mechanism on ceasefire, the clashes will continue,” he warned.
However, Makueng dismissed SPLM-IO claims of being locked out in the internal drafting of key SPLM documents and revealed that key armed opposition figures like Chief Negotiator, Taban Deng Gai and the former political detainees under the Arusha Agreement participated in the process in Juba.
“The person who was not there in Juba was Riek Machar. I thought the SPLM-IO is an institution and if Taban Deng was there then the armed opposition was represented in the process,” he assured.
He added among the crucial amendments decided on in Arusha by the various factions included departure from voting by hands to secret ballot and also scrapped the five percent appointees by the Chairman within the party.
“It was discussed in the national liberation council that voting was not to be by hands but by secret ballot. They also scrapped the 5 percent appointees by the party chairman,” Makueng said.
Conflict broke out in December 2013 after president Kiir accused his deputy Machar of plotting a coup, which he denied leading to fighting that has killed tens of thousands, uprooting more than 2.3 million from their homes and 200,000 leave in UN protection camps.