October 20, 2014
ARUSHA – Factions of the ruling party in South Sudan, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM), have signed a framework agreement which aims to address the root causes of the conflict that erupted in mid-December and plunged the country into violent crisis.
The document was signed on Monday in the Tanzanian northern town of Arusha and witnessed by the two principal rival leaders, namely president Salva Kiir, who chairs the SPLM in government and Riek Machar, former vice president and leader of the SPLM-in-Opposition.
SPLM of former detainees also participated in the talks and inked the document as well.
President Jakaya Kikwete chairs the Tanzanian ruling party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which facilitated the intra-SPLM dialogue.
Delegates of the three rival groups of the South Sudanese ruling party met in Arusha from 12th to 18th of this month to try to come up with the framework in the process hosted by the Tanzanian ruling party.
The framework agreement highlighted preamble, principles, objectives and agenda that will be discussed in the intra-party dialogue. It also included rules of engagement and role of CCM.
However, it said the process is distinct from the peace talks which takes place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“The parties recognize that the Arusha process is essentially an intra-SPLM dialogue and is separate and distinct from the IGAD mediated peace talks among South Sudanese stakeholders. Yet the parties are fully aware that the two processes, although separate, are mutually interdependent and reinforcing,” partly reads a communiqué.
The document recommits the parties to the principles of democracy, internal democracy especially on matters of decision making, elections, succession and peaceful transfer of power.
It further calls for “unity of SPLM as a safeguard against fragmentation of the country along ethnic and regional fault lines.”
“Initiate measures to stop the war, lead the government and the people of South Sudan towards peace, stability and prosperity,” it further urges.
Both leaders expressed their commitment to the intra-party dialogue that would reunite the divided historical party.
The document was signed by senior officials of the rival factions, namely Daniel Awet Akot, Peter Adwok Nyaba and Pagan Amum Okech, representing SPLM in government, SPLM-in-Opposition and SPLM former detainees, respectively.
When contacted for some clarity on the meaning of the document inked by the three SPLM rival parties, Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak, said the agreement served as a roadmap for further negotiations in trying to reunite the ruling party and end the war.
“It is a roadmap agreement with guiding principles and objectives for further discussions and possible resolutions,” Dak told Sudan Tribune when contacted on Monday.
“The governance crisis within the SPLM gave birth to the 15 December violence which has unfortunately plunged the country into the current national crisis or civil war. The intra-party dialogue provides a supplement to the peace talks in Addis Ababa to try and address the root causes of this conflict within the ruling party,” he added.
Also, Dak added that the framework agreement has recognised the need to “revitalise, reorganise, strengthen and restore the SPLM to its vision, principles, political direction and core values.”
Analysts, however, say the dialogue, could provide an avenue for progress on key issues, including deep divisions between South Sudanese party leaders, if respected.
“Progress on party politics in Arusha is likely good news for the peace process. The fear is that it might come at a high price for civil society and other stakeholders that have been struggling for months for meaningful engagement at the IGAD-led peace talks,” said Justine Fleischner, a Sudan and South Sudan policy consultant at Enough Project.
Akshaya Kumar, a Sudan and South Sudan policy analyst at Enough Project said the new Arusha forum on party politics must tackle issues beyond elite power sharing so as to fulfil its promise of being mutually reinforcing of the peace talks in Addis Ababa.
“South Sudan’s ruling SPLM is facing much more than a leadership schism; after 10 months of internecine war, its very legitimacy is at stake,” said Kumar.