Signs That South Sudan Combatants May Negotiate Peace
Machar and Kiir-- two hats too many?
There is increasing hope that international condemnation of the on-going atrocities in South Sudan will force the two warring leaders there to the negotiating table.
South Sudan, which is less than three years old, erupted in violence on December 15. Forces loyal to President Salva Kiir were involved in clashes with those loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar.
The fighting degenerated into ethnic cleansing. Dinka's in the army targeted Nuer civilians for massacres; meanwhile, Machar's supporters in the northern part of South Sudan targeted Dinka civilians.
In the meantime a split of the young nation is threatened since Machar's supporters have seized territory in the northern part of the country, including oil-producing areas.
The United Nations must demand for an immediate ceasefire. Ultimately those responsible for the massacres must be brought to account or impunity will promote more crimes.
Kiir is an ethnic Dinka while Machar is Nuer. The United Nations reports mass graves filled with victims of each side's supporters. These killings qualify for investigation as crimes against humanity, which the International Criminal Court would be compelled to prosecute. The UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon has already said the world body is monitoring violence by all sides in the conflict. The Security Council Tuesday authorized an additional international intervention force of 7,000 to bolster the 6,000 already there.
In addition to the thousands reported killed, more than 96,000 civilians have been displaced.
The immediate task is to secure the peace.
Machar, who had been dismissed as vice president in July by Kiir, denies that the December 15 violence started after elements in the army loyal to him attempted a military coup.
He had previously said he would not be willing to negotiate with Kiir and demanded that the president step down. Later, he said he would talk provided Kiir released from captivity his detained political allies.
With strong statements from world leader, including President Barack Obama, calling for dialogue, Machar now says he is willing to start talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, The Sudan Tribune reports.
In a clever move, in naming his delegation for the proposed talks, Machar has included Pagan Amum Okiech, former Secretary General of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement, who is one of his detained comrades.
South Sudan and the whole of Africa can't afford for these talks to end in failure.
The country needs a government of national unity, that includes both Kiir and Machar supporters, until the next elections, scheduled for 2015. Additionally, the UN authorized force in the country should provide protection for politicians concerned about their security, in light of the December 15 conflict whose roots must also be investigated.