First Vice President and SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar (Courtesy photo)

Machar cries foul over Nairobi talks

South Sudan’s First Vice-President Riek Machar has written to the Kenyan mediation team, citing deviation from its mandate by seeking to create parallel institutions.

In a June 19, 2024 letter, seen by Radio Tamazuj, the opposition SPLM-IO leader presented seven points of concern to the mediation team headed by Kenyan Gen (rtd) Lazarus Sumbeiywo.

The letter is also copied to the deputy chief mediator, Mohamed Ali Guido, the co-mediator and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Envoy to South Sudan, Ismail Wais, and Tobias Muller, a co-mediator representing the Rome-based Sant’Egidio Community.

“As one of the principals of the revitalized agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, I am writing to your excellency to express my concerns on the mediators’ draft document entitled, Tumaini Consensus, and implementation framework for a permanent constitution and sustainable peace for South Sudan,” wrote Machar.

Machar, who signed a 2018 peace agreement with President Salva Kiir, said the document does not recognize the Revitalized Agreement and seems to have been designed to replace the 2018 accord.

He insists some sections of the document establish alternative institutions to those in the Revitalized Agreement.

“It is the parties signatory to the revitalized peace agreement, acting together, which is the only body that has the power to initiate amendments of the agreement. The document has empowered the Tumaini Initiative to be an annex to the revitalized and not a stand-alone agreement. In light of the above, Tumaini abrogates the Revitalized Agreement when it was intended to complement it by ensuring the inclusion of the non-signatories in the implementation of the agreement. Therefore, the Tumaini Initiative has deviated from its intended mandate,” explained Machar.

Meanwhile, Pouk Both Baluang, Machar’s press secretary, confirmed to Radio Tamazuj that the opposition SPLM-IO had raised concerns over the contents of the draft agreement of the Nairobi peace forum.

“We have discovered in the draft document that the Nairobi peace initiative is being utilized to supplant the revitalized peace agreement—the draft agreement discusses institutions that will be established. It’s crucial to note that another agreement cannot simply replace the 2018 agreement,” he clarified.

The Nairobi talks are between President Salva Kiir’s government and the opposition groups that were not part of the 2018 Peace Agreement that ended a five-year civil war.

Peace talks between the South Sudan government and the holdout groups were launched in Kenya on May 9, with African presidents calling for an end to a conflict that has crippled the country for several years.

The mediation is led by Gen Sumbeiywo, who also mediated the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, which gave South Sudan autonomy and later led to a referendum for independence in 2011.

In December 2023, President Kiir requested his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto to take over the mediation from the Community of Sant’Egidio, complaining that the talks had taken too long. 

In February, President Ruto accepted after consulting with the community of Sant’Egidio.

Dr. Riek Machar’s letter