South Sudanese president Salva Kiir said he rejected signing a ‘bad peace’ with his former deputy in party and government, Riek Machar, assuring Dinka council of elders that he will never succumb to pressures from the international community
Kiir in a briefing with the Jieng (Dinka) council of elders on Saturday narrated to them that after days in direct negotiation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in March, he refused to sign a peace agreement with the rebel leader, Machar, despite mounting pressure on him.
He said he would not accept a peace agreement that would not last longer.
“I know our people need peace which is what the government is pursuing. We want to bring lasting peace, a peace that will not return our people to another senseless war,” he said.
“We want just and lasting one,” he told the Dinka council of elders who hail from his ethnic group and serve as advisors on peace.
The head of state said he wanted peace that is initiated at home and not from the regional or international players.
“We need a home-grown solution to this conflict. We want our people to feel the sense of ownership of the solution so that when the peace is signed, it should not face obstacles in the implementation,” he added.
Kiir’s government said they wanted a peace agreement that would see the former vice-president only become a twin deputy vice president with the incumbent James Wani Igga.
They wanted the rebelled regular South Sudan army to lay down their arms and be reintegrated into the army, but without their new recruits or the bulk of their force known as the White Army.
The government also didn’t want federal system of governance to be implemented during the interim period, saying this would be referred to the permanent constitutional making process for consideration.
Juba also resisted introduction and implementation of various security, governance, public and economic sector reforms, including a proposal by the rebels to distribute wealth of the country among the states.
Kiir also acknowledged that by not meeting some of the demands by the rebel group a ceasefire will not hold.
“You know why the ceasefire has never been respected by those Riek claims to be loyal to him is because they do not support whatever agreements which are signed in Addis Ababa with Riek and his team. So we want to sign a peace that will be accepted by everybody so that it is not violated. We should not just sign a peace because we are under pressure from others,” he said.
The government, according to the president at the briefing of the Dinka council of elders, will do what it thinks is the best to the people of South Sudan and not what others think is the best, vowing that he will never heed to threats from the international community.
“They (IGAD) were saying someone was ready with the stick to hit if we do not sign peace, I told them to let them hit anywhere they want but I cannot be threatened to sign a bad peace. Nobody will impose anything we do not want,” he further emphasized.
Kiir, however, expressed optimism that the next round will surmount difficulties he and his negotiating team had in reaching the deal with the rebel leadership when peace talks collapsed.
Earlier the Dinka council of elders presented their position to Kiir which seemingly further influenced the decision of the president.
For instance, the Dinka leaders urged Kiir not to succumb to outside pressures, saying they would not accept what was imposed and not home-grown.
“It should also be made known to IGAD and the African Union (AU) that South Sudan will not become a testing ground for crude and new governance theories and that such attempts will be resisted to the fullest,” declared the Dinka council of elders in their letter to the president.
Echoing Kiir’s stance, the Dinka elders plainly threw in their resolve to stand behind him and mobilise the masses to stand behind their president.
They also declared to fight deployment of any foreign force without prior approval of the government, referring to the recommended deployment of African troops in the AU’s leaked report on crimes committed in the conflict.
“As for the proposed African Oversight Force, it should be clear to the continental body that such a force could only touch ground in South Sudan only with the government’s permission. Any movement of such force illegally into South Sudan would be an act of war and will be met with a tested resistance,” the Dinka elders said.
“We want peace, but it has to be our home-grown, not a regional or international peace that undermines the sanctity of our sovereignty,” they further stated.
The tribal grouping could not however criticise the presence of the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) in South Sudan as a factor undermining the country’s sovereignty.
Observers said the president’s decision was biased by the Dinka council of elders who many think as an obstacle to peace in South Sudan.
The Dinka council of elders is a group of intellectuals, politicians and senior government officials selected from the states inhabited by the Dinka ethnic group, the largest and ruling community in South Sudan from which Kiir hails.
Led by the country’s former chief justice, Ambrose Riing Thiik, majority are either in the government as cabinet ministers or either in the council of states or in the national legislative assembly. None of them is an ordinary person practising an elderly role.
With their hard-line position on which they advise the president and coupled with anti-peace position from the military top generals, observers said it may be difficult for Kiir to compromise some of the core outstanding issues in the negotiations.
The next round of the talks is expected to resume in mid-April in Addis Ababa under a new expanded IGAD-Plus mediation mechanism which will include the Troika countries of the US, UK and Norway, as well as the AU, EU and UN.