South Sudan President Salva Kiir refused to sign a peace deal with rival Riek Machar after finding the text of the accord had been altered from the one that had been agreed upon, the government camp now says.
South Sudan’s deputy ambassador to Kenya John Morgan told The East African that President Kiir was aware of the deal in store when he left Juba on Monday for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the last-ditch talks were to be held to forestall economic and military sanctions being imposed on the warring factions.
Later that day, President Kiir refused to endorse a deal backed by IGAD and the troika – the US, the UK and Norway – saying he needed 15 days for consultations as Mr Machar put pen to paper, gaining some mileage as a pro-peace leader.
“The president left for Addis because he thought the deal he was meant to sign was reasonable. This was until he realised that some of the controversial clauses removed during the Entebbe meeting were reinstated in the Addis peace deal,” Mr Morgan said.
However, President Kiir had earlier appeared to suggest that he was going to Addis Ababa against his will; for fear of being branded anti-peace.
“Even if I am not happy, I must show my face. If I don’t go, negative forces will take me as the one against the peace that was going to be signed,” President Kiir told reporters before leaving Juba.
Machar told reporters he was surprised by Kiir’s decision.
“I didn’t know that he was not going to sign. I couldn’t find any explanation for this because he had it all. There is no reason why he requested for more time. We had a good agreement,” Mr Machar.
The decision not to sign came as a surprise to regional leaders and the international community who had hopped the peace deal would mark a step closer in achieving a peace for the country.
The US, through its State department, said it “would consider ways to raise the cost for intransigence” while the EU has said failure to sign the agreement within the 15 days requested “would entail consequences.”
President Kiir refused to sign the peace deal because the reinstated clauses would see the capital Juba declared a demilitarised zone, have him share power with Mr Machar both at the national and state level, and exercise executive authority with his rival.
Perhaps most controversially, the peace deal would allow Mr Machar to be in control of his rebel forces while Mr Kiir would be in charge of the national army – presenting a dangerous situation where the country could potentially have two commanders-in-chief.
A recent meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, bringing together the so called “frontline” states, resolved to remove these provisions.
The East African