IGAD TO DEPLOY 14,000 PEACEKEEPERS TO SOUTH SUDAN, KIIR AND MACHAR TO MEET

KIGALI, — South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar have agreed to meet and deliberate on the way forward to restore peace in the country following the armed conflict which broke out there in recent days, an official says.

Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana who is Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) signed in August 2015 by the various parties in the conflict, said Sunday he met Kiir and spoke to Machar over the telephone and that the two had agreed to talks to prevent a new bout of bloodletting which would shatter South Sudan.

“The president gave us his version of what led to this regrettable confrontation while the vice-president on his part also expressed a willingness to meet with the president, provided his security was assured,” Mogae said.

The two South Sudan leaders had to ensure strict adherence by their respective forces to the cessation of hostilities and ceasefire and start full implementation of the agreement and transitional security arrangement provisions, Mogae said.

The renewed fighting erupted last week when troops loyal to Kiir stopped and demanded to search the vehicles of Machar’s loyalists. The stand-off led to clashes, with gunfire between the vice-president’s bodyguards and the presidential guard while the two were holding talks at the presidential State House to defuse tensions.

However, it is still not clear who had prompted the exchange of fire. The violence threatens to reignite the two-year conflict between the forces of Kiir and troops loyal to Machar which came to an end in April when Machar returned to Juba to take up his old post and a role in the unity government.

African Heads of State and Governments will meet on Monday to make a final decision on matters deliberated on earlier by ministers at the ongoing African Union (AU) Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Ethiopian government, which chairs the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-nation Horn of Africa bloc, said IGAD would increase the number of troops in South Sudan to restore calm and security.

The 14,000 troops from Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Kenya would double the current 12,000-strong United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) forces.

“Since we have been heavily involved in the peace process in South Sudan, whether it is through strengthening troops on the ground or any other means available, we will be more than willing to take up our part of the responsibility in restoring peace in South Sudan,” Ethiopian Communications Affairs Minister Getachew Reda said.

A summit would be held in Juba, Nairobi, or Addis Abeba to further discuss the situation, he said, adding that “IGAD has called on both sides for the ceasefire to hold but has also called upon troop contributing countries to strengthen an international brigade”.

No timeline has been given for the summit or troop deployments yet.

Mogae also endorsed the deployment of an international protection force to guarantee safety and security in Juba. However, Kiir has said he no longer wants any foreign military intervention in the current political crisis, as the UNMISS in South Sudan has many foreign troops.

Source: Name News Network