By Parach Mach
JUBA, South Sudan (AA) - South African Deputy President Cyril Ramphosa arrived in the South Sudanese capital Juba Monday to bolster the reunification of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.
The two-member delegation, including Ramphosa, who came as a special envoy for the South African president, and Tanzania's ruling party Chama Cha Mapenduzi Secretary-General Abdurrahman met South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, party official said.
The delegation aims to learn about progress made in the implementation of the Arusha Agreement on SPLM unification, which was signed last November after the party split, plunging the youngest country into more than two years of civil war.
The SPLM acting Secretary-General, Jemma Nunu Nkumba, said that Ramphosa and Mapinduzi will also meet former rebels led by first-Vice President Riek Machar, who is a co-guarantor of the reunification agreement
A smoldering political rift within the SPLM had flared into fighting between supporters of Kiir and Machar in December 2013, leading the party to splinter into at least three groups. The agreement signed in Arusha acknowledged that the rift in the SPLM was "among root causes" of the conflict in the country, and that party leaders had "contributed to the emergence of the crisis."
South Sudan’s two civil war, which Kiir’s SPLM faction said was triggered by a failed coup masterminded by Machar, rapidly spread across the country. Machar fled Juba almost as soon as the fighting erupted, but other SPLM officials were detained on suspicion of being part of an alleged coup plot. They later came to be known as the political detainees.
South Sudan’s warring SPLM factions -- the SPLM government, SPLM-IO and SPLM former detainees -- signed the August 2015 peace deal under international pressure that allowed Machar to return as Kiir’s deputy.
Machar claims the peace deal has been violated due to the controversial creation of 28 states and drafting of the SPLM constitution and manifesto prior to their return to Juba.
A spokesman for Machar’s SPLM-IO advance team, William Ezekiel, welcomed Ramaphosa’s visit but said a lot of issues remain unresolved despite the formation of a transitional unity government in April.
“The SPLM-IO came to Juba as part of the reunification agreement but to our surprise, the government went ahead to unilaterally draft the SPLM party constitution and manifesto,” Ezekiel said, adding: “We were not part and parcel of that process.”
He added that the government continued to dispute and deny them cantonment areas in greater Bahr el-Ghazal and Equatorial regions. He cautioned that provocative clashes like the recent fighting between their forces and the South Sudanese army, also known as SPLA, in North-Rubkoena Unity state may continue unabated if the cease-fire mechanism was not respected by both parties.
“As long as there is no clear mechanism on a cease-fire, the clashes will continue,” he warned.
However, Kiir’s SPLM faction dismissed SPLM-IO claims of being left out of the internal drafting of key SPLM documents and revealed that prominent armed opposition figures like Chief Negotiator Taban Deng Gai and former political detainees under the Arusha agreement had participated in the process in Juba.
“It was only Riek Machar who was absent. SPLM-IO is an institution and if Taban Deng, who is former rebel chief negotiator represented them in the process, then whom do they want?” he asked.