Crucial South Sudan peace agreement expected within hours

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s sudden illness yesterday was not serious enough to cancel crucial peace talks on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa today.

The Sudan Tribune reported that Kiir was rushed off to hospital after suffering a nosebleed during talks between him and Rick Machar, the opposition leader and his former deputy, at Addis’s Sheraton Hotel yesterday.

The talks were facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), chaired by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

South Sudanese expert from the Institute of Security Studies, Solomon Derrso, who has been following developments closely, told a press briefing at the AU headquarters that the talks between the parties were set to continue their talks this morning.

He said a peace agreement was expected “in the next few hours”.

He said if the parties could not reach an agreement today there was a good chance that the Igad-facilitated peace talks could collapse.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council is set to discuss a report at its meeting tonight on the AU-led inquiry, chaired by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, into the South Sudan conflict. There has been pressure from civil society, among others, for the AU to make the report public.

It is understood that the report could deeply implicate leaders on both sides in the conflict, which could lead to sanctions against key individuals.

Dersso said the Peace and Security Council’s meeting on South Sudan tonight could be one of the “most critical” of its meetings on South Sudan to date.

Some of the contentious issues include how the executive power would be divided between the president and the opposition leader, who would either be a first vice-president or a prime minister.

There is also disagreement on whether both sides could maintain separate armies for an agreed period of time. The last contentious issue is whether the country should be reorganised into a federal structure.

The conflict in South Sudan started in 2013 when one faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), led by Machar, rebelled against Kiir’s faction.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was dispatched by President Jacob Zuma a year ago as a special envoy to try to help mediate in talks on party-level following a ceasefire in the country.

Ramaphosa is, however, not expected in Addis Ababa this week.

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