The South Sudan sponsored talks in Juba are expected to last two months. Similar talks mediated by the African Union over the past 10 years failed to resolve the conflict between the rebels and the previous Sudanese government led by former President Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted by military leaders this year after months of protests.
Following talks in South Sudan’s capital Juba brokered by its President Kiir, Sudan govt and Sudanese armed opposition groups 11 Sept signed roadmap for peace called “The Juba Declaration of Confidence Building Measures and the Preparation for Negotiation”; armed groups Sudanese Revolutionary Front and Sudan Liberation Forces Alliance signed document and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North faction led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu signed same text in separate document. Declaration says full negotiations will begin 14 Oct in Juba and sets 14 Dec as deadline for agreement. Armed opposition faction Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur refused to take part in talks.
The discussions, which started on Monday, are aimed at ending the country’s years long conflicts and come a month after the two sides agreed on a plan and a series of trust building measures, including the extension of a ceasefire already in place.
The sovereign council’s delegation is headed by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti, while the rebels’ representative team is led by Abdulaziz al-Hilu, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, which is active in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
Also in attendance is Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
SPLM-N secretary-general Amar Amon agreed Thursday to return to the negotiating table.
“We have been following the situation on the ground and we have seen the government of Khartoum made some steps which we regarded as positive towards addressing all those issues,” he said, adding that some work remained to be done.
The rebel group’s spokesman described the initial agreement on agenda points as “a great achievement”.
Talks among the Sudanese government, the rebel SPLM-North faction and two smaller Sudanese rebel groups began Friday in Juba.
After a three-hour meeting, mediators, Khartoum officials and the SPLM-North faction announced an agenda for the talks. Sudan government spokesman Mohammed Hassan Alteishi said the parties agreed to discuss several issues.
“The parties have agreed on categorizing and sequencing the negotiation issues as follows: one, political issues; two, humanitarian issues; three, security arrangements. Second, the parties have agreed on the necessity to agree on declaration of principles,” Alteishi told reporters at Juba’s Pyramid Hotel.
SPLM-North spokesperson Ajak Mahmoud called the agenda for the talks “a great achievement.”
“The two parties embarked in direct engagement this morning since 9 o’clock and recently we made a very important breakthrough,” Mahmoud said.
The SPLM-North has been fighting Sudanese government forces in the Nuba Mountains for several years.
Tutkew Gatluak, the security adviser to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, is leading the talks. He said the agenda gives the parties a clear direction to follow during the negotiations.
“We thank God. We had a meeting with our brothers in SPLM-North and we have reached an agreement, and the first agreement we agreed on is on the humanitarian issue, security and political issue and all the issues that will make us reach a final peace deal,” Gatluak said.
The optimism was a marked turnaround from Tuesday, when the SPLM-North faction said it was suspending the talks, accusing government forces of bombing villages in the Nuba Mountains and killing one person.
The government delegation denied playing a role in any attacks in the area and said the incident involved traders and cattle herders.
Hamdok and Kiir in Juba 12 Sept agreed to reopen access to several border areas in Sudan and South Sudan and reopen border crossings to improve bilateral trade and freedom of movement. Sovereign Council 26 Sept announced immediate closure of borders with Libya and Central African Republic citing undefined security and economic threats.