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South Sudan President and rebel chief given 100 days to form unity government4 minutes read

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South Sudan President and rebel chief given 100 days to form unity government
(Photo by Akuot CHOL / AFP)

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar on Thursday were given another 100 days to form a power-sharing government after failing to resolve differences, a fresh delay that prompted a sharp US warning that the fledgling nation needed new leaders.

The two rivals, whose fallout in 2013 sparked a conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead, were granted the extension after a rare face-to-face meeting held with regional heavyweights in Uganda.

It is the second time the deadline has been pushed back since the rivals signed a truce last September that brought a pause to fighting.

Both sides had agreed to join forces in a coalition government by November 12. But with the date looming and key issues far from resolved, regional leaders brokered high-level mediations in Entebbe to chart a way forward.

“It was really impossible to have them reach agreement in five days. We’ve given them three months and we will continue our engagement,” Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa told reporters following the closed-door discussions at State House in Entebbe.

The meeting “agreed to extend the pre-transitional period… and to review progress after fifty days from that date”, Kutesa said afterwards, reading from an official communique.

Read: South Sudan calls for U.N sanction lift

The United States, a major backer of the impoverished nation, voiced exasperation with the delay and said it would “review our relationship” with South Sudan’s government.

“This inability to meet their own deadline calls into question their suitability to continue to lead the nation’s peace process,” Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat of Africa, said of Kiir and Machar.

“The US is considering all possible options to put pressure on those individuals who would impede peace and promote conflict,” he wrote on Twitter.

The United States has previously threatened targeted sanctions without a prompt government formation, although an official earlier ruled out ending Washington’s roughly $1 billion in humanitarian assistance.

Nagy nonetheless voiced appreciation to the African mediators who included Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni; General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads neighbouring Sudan’s sovereign council; and Kalonzo Musyoka, a special envoy from Kenya.

Violence halted –

Despite US frustration at the slow progress, some observers warned that pushing the foes to form a unity government before disagreements over security and state boundaries were resolved threatened to plunge the country back into war.

The peace deal has largely stopped the fighting that erupted just two years after South Sudan achieved independence, violence that left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced close to four million people.

“Another extension is far preferable than a return to conflict,” said Alan Boswell, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank.

“Regional mediators must step up at the highest levels to finally resolve the sticking points blocking the peace process from moving forward.”

Machar, who lives in exile in Khartoum and cannot travel freely in the region, had asked for more time so that the impasse over security and territory arrangements could be overcome.

The rebel leader warned that if these were not addressed, the country would see a repeat of fighting in 2016, when an earlier peace deal collapsed, worsening the conflict.

Machar, a former deputy to Kiir, fled South Sudan on foot under a hail of gunfire and has only returned home on rare occasions, fearing for his safety.

Kiir had said he was ready to form a new government and had threatened to do it alone.

International pressure –

The creation of the coalition government, a key pillar of the September 2018 peace deal between the rivals, had already been delayed once in May when regional leaders brokered a six-month extension.

The United Nations Security Council, on the eve of the Entebbe meeting, declared that fully implementing “all provisions of the peace agreement remains the only path that will set the country towards the goal of peace, stability and development”.

A cornerstone of the accord was that fighters from all sides would be gathered into military camps and trained as a unified army — a process dogged by delays and lack of funding.

Little progress has been made on negotiations around state boundaries — another major sticking point.

The European Union, in a statement Thursday before the extension was announced, urged the warring parties to demonstrate “genuine will to build peace” and set realistic deadlines for resolving outstanding issues.

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East Africa Politics News

Embakasi East MP, Babu Owino pleads “not guilty” to attempted murder

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Kenyan Member of Parliament for the Embakasi East Constituency recently found himself caught in the crosshairs of the justice system, following an incident in the wee hours of Friday morning. Babu Owino was seen on surveillance footage drawing a gun and allegedly shooting one Felix Orinda, popularly known as DJ Evolve, in the neck. The incident occured at B-Club, a popular night club in Nairobi.

In the surveillance videos, DJ Evolve was also seen being dragged out of the club. He was taken to Nairobi Hospital shortly after the shooting for a quick surgery to remove the bullet lodged in his neck. He is currently in a stable condition.

The controversial, outspoken legislator spent the weekend behind bars over the incident and will be remanded for another seven days pending a pre-bail report, Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi ruled on Monday morning. The magistrate called for the victim’s evidence to be presented in court before a determination is made on Babu Owino’s bail. The state, through prosecutor Jacob Ondari, registered its opposition to his release on bail, citing concerns that the MP may interfere with witnesses during investigations. A request by Owino’s lawyer, Cliff Ombeta to hold him at a police station and not in prison was also denied. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempted murder.

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One US citizen, four Africans arrested by Kenyan Police for spying for Al-Shabaab

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Three men and two women have been arrested by Kenyan security forces for preparing a terror attack in Nairobi, a police report seen by AFP on Sunday showed.

The report stated that the group comprising three men — a US citizen, a Somali and their Kenyan driver — and two Somali women were believed to be on a reconnaissance mission for an attack in the north of the capital, the report dated Saturday said.

Police received information on Friday saying that “suspected terrorists” were carrying out a surveillance operation at a pub on Kiambu Road, a spot popular for its many bars and nightclubs.

Kenyan security forces have been on high alert since the Somali Al-Shabaab group, close to Al-Qaeda, stepped up attacks in the east of the country this month, threatening to target more Kenyan and US interests.

On January 5, the Somali Al-Shabaab group attacked Camp Simba, killing three Americans and destroying several aircraft and warning Kenya to withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance”.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against Al-Shabaab, and has seen several brutal retaliation attacks both on its troops in Somalia and civilians in Kenya.

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Ethiopia to hold parliamentary polls in May or June, PM Abiy

The election will be the first under Nobel Peace Laureate Abiy, who took office in April 2018 and launched political and economic reforms.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed/Kfm

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Sunday that the country will hold a parliamentary election in May or June despite security and logistic concerns that his government is tackling.

The election will be the first under Nobel Peace Laureate Abiy, who took office in April 2018 and launched political and economic reforms.

His reform agenda has also stoked violence and highlighted ethnic divisions in the country of about 105 million people, and the election board said last June that the security situation could delay the 2020 election.

“On the schedule, I am not sure whether it is May or June, because the schedule will be declared by the election board but I think we will conduct an election this year because it is a constitutional mandate,” Abiy said in response to a question at a media briefing with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, a Reuters report said.

“There might be lots of challenges, not only logistics but also peace and security… It is better for Ethiopians and for Ethiopian parties to conduct the election on time in a very peaceful and democratic manner,” he said.

Ahmed is on an official state visit to South Africa. The two governments signed agreements to enhance cooperation, including on tourism and health.

Ethiopia has regularly held elections since 1995 but, with the exception of the 2005 election, no election has been competitive.

In the 2005 election, riots erupted after the opposition cried foul, security forces killed nearly 200 protesters, and the government jailed many opposition politicians.

Opposition politicians have warned against any delay in the election, and critics have said that postponing the vote could cause an adverse social reaction, fuel regional conflicts and damage Abiy’s democratic credentials.

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