Mediation talks aimed at ending the three-week old conflict in South Sudan are expected to focus on the cessation of hostilities and the status of the detainees Tuesday, said the East African bloc IGAD.
The talks being held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa between representatives of South Sudan’s government and rebels have endorsed modalities of South Sudan Dialogue, Rules of Procedure, and Structure and Terms of Reference to guide the talks, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said Monday.
“The two delegations appreciated the gravity of the situation and the need and urgency of resolving the crisis in South Sudan,” IGAD said in a statement.
Fresh fighting in the world’s newest country erupted Dec 15, 2013 when President Salva Kiir said soldiers loyal to his former vice president Riek Machar, dismissed from office in July, launched an attempted coup.
Kiir belongs to the Dinka ethnic group and Machar to the Lou Nuer and the conflict has been increasingly marked by reports of ethnically targeted violence.
Thousands of people are estimated to have died in the violence, and among those that have been driven from their homes, many are seeking refuge on bases of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) which has been authorised by the Security Council to almost double its armed strength to nearly 14,000 in an effort to protect civilians.
The UN estimates that more than 1,000 people have been killed and around 200,000 displaced from their homes due to the ongoing clashes in South Sudan.
The face-to-face negotiations between South Sudanese parties in the IGAD-led mediation process continued in Addis Ababa Monday under the mediation of the special envoys, Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, General Lazaro Sumbeiywo and General Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa Eldabi.
According to IGAD, the two warring parties reminded themselves of the long-drawn liberation struggle that culminated in the independence of their country and “regretted the unfortunate situation which the current conflict has brought”.
The mediators and IGAD Chief Ambassador Mahboub Maalim have expressed confidence and optimism that the delegations would tackle the substantive agreed agenda of the dialogue — cessation of hostilities and the status of the detainees.