London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Rival South Sudan’s political factions agreed on Tuesday that the country should adopt a federal system of government, one day after signing a framework agreement in the Tanzanian city of Arusha which aims to resolve the political crisis that split the country’s ruling party and ignited an armed conflict last year.
Progress in the talks have raised hopes that an end of ten months of violence in South Sudan—which became the world’s youngest country when it seceded from Sudan in 2011—is in sight. So far, the fighting has claimed tens of thousands of lives amid widespread reports of atrocities carried out by both sides.
Following talks in Ethiopia, mediators from the East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) announced on Tuesday that the country’s warring factions have drawn closer to agreeing the structure and functions of a new transitional government of national unity, though some details remain to be worked out.
The factions met in the Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, where they continued to discuss a political agreement signed on Monday in Tanzania. Mediators said that although both sides had agreed “in principle” to the establishment of a federal system of government, details still needed to be ironed out. Former Vice-President Riek Machar called for the immediate establishment of a federal government, while President Salva Kiir favors a 30-month transitional period before the establishment of a new national unity government, IGAD mediators said.
The two leaders fell out in late 2013 after Kiir accused the country’s second-in-command of seeking to carry out a military coup. Rifts quickly began to emerge within the ruling SPLM, with Machar leading the SPLM-in-Opposition and Pagan Amum, the SPLM’s Secretary-General, heading a group known as the “former detainees” who adopted a more peaceful approach. Monday’s framework agreement was also signed by Amum.
Delegates from the three factions held talks under the aegis of the Tanzanian government over the past week with the aim of bridging the gap within the SPLM and addressing the root causes of the crisis. The Tanzanian government said it held Monday’s meeting at the request of the SPLM in order to end the conflict in the country.
Secretary-General of Tanzania’s ruling party, Abdulrahman Kinana, said President Jakaya Kikwete will chair forthcoming talks between Kiir and Machar. He maintained that intra-SPLM talks had kicked off on October 12 and said that participants had set a framework aimed at reuniting the ruling party.
The talks will tackle several issues including who will rule the country during the transitional period, the powers of the president and prime minister, and the introduction of other administrative, security and military reforms, an Arusha-based source who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat.
South Sudanese political analyst Atim Simon told Asharq Al-Awsat that this forthcoming meeting will open the door and allow for the various parties to reach a broader agreement to conclusively end the crisis.
He added that public opinion in South Sudan is optimistic regarding the prospects of the agreement resulting in a lasting peace.