Four senior military officers each from president Salva Kiir’s government and the armed opposition faction led by former vice president, Riek Machr, would lead the workshop to discuss demilitarization of the capital, Juba, and determine the size and composition of forces to be deployed in the national capital as well as in other state capitals, among others.
But government’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, who is the official spokesperson of the government told journalists on Friday in Juba that IGAD had rescheduled the workshop for unknown date, urging the regional mediation body not to “drag its feet” in the implementation of the peace agreement.
In a press conference he organized on Friday, Lueth said IGAD sent an email on Thursday to the parties to the peace deal, announcing that the workshop was being postponed.
“It (email) says dear all, please be informed that due to delays of the participants list and logistical problems, we are forced to push the workshop,” Lueth read the email to reporters in Juba on Friday at a news conference.
The outspoken information minister distributed the email from IGAD to reporters during the news conference. The email added a new date for the workshop will be announced soon.
But the minister said that explanation is not enough.
“IGAD should call a spade a spade. In case there is a delay from the side of the rebels, they should clearly state that it is the rebels list that have not been received. There is no question of parties are in violation as it used to be. We will not tolerate that language again. Anybody who is responsible for whatever delay should be held responsible for the delay,” he said.
Makuei said the workshop is a vital step if the permanent ceasefire is to be fully respected.
“I also call upon IGAD at this moment to expedite this process because without this workshop, there will be no permanent ceasefire. It will be in paper and will not be operational on the ground,” Makuei said.
The government earlier announced that it had selected four senior officers to take part in the gathering due to take place in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
South Sudan’s opposition faction also said their leadership on Thursday appointed a team led by four senior military officers to participate in the workshop.
“The leadership of SPLM/SPLA has already selected and appointed four senior military officers and their support staff to participate in the workshop,” confirmed Machar’s press secretary, James Gatdet Dak, on Friday.
He added that even the opposition’s membership to the national transitional amendment committee had already been appointed to take part in amending the constitution in accordance with the provisions of the peace agreement.
He however revealed that their leadership had written to IGAD, requesting for temporary postponement of the workshop on permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements in order for the agreement to be endorsed by the national liberation council in the opposition.
The peace agreement, he explained, provides for the endorsement of the peace accord by the government parliament and opposition’s national liberation council within a week as a first step in the implementation of the deal.
Dak said the opposition’s leadership is scheduled to endorse the agreement early next week.
South Sudan’s government on Friday applauded the peace agreement in a cabinet meeting chaired by president Kiir and urged the national minister of justice to table the document before the national legislature for endorsement “as it is.”
Officers from both sides are expected to meet in Addis Ababa by end of next week to agree on details of the security arrangements and enforce ceasefire.
Meanwhile, opposition’s military spokesman, Col. William Gatjiath Deng, in a press statement he issued on Friday said government’s helicopter gunships had continued to attack their positions on the west bank near Malakal, capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile state.
Deng called on the international community to reign in the government to respect the permanent ceasefire.