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Fine Line: Salva Kiir (Gen.), president of the battered young nation, and his archrival, Riek Machar (PhD), faced each other late last week in Addis Abeba




After almost half a year of mutual disdain and hostility, with each of the warring parties committing gruesome acts against the other, Salva Kiir (Gen.), president of the battered young nation, and his archrival, Riek Machar (PhD), faced each other late last week in Addis Abeba.

So much has been reported on this conflict, while the degree of savagery documented by an AU-commissioned investigation – led by Nigeria’s statesman, Olusegun Obasanjo – is yet to make things clear to the international community, gossip disclosed. Three mass graves were found – one near Juba, where the government has control, and two in areas where the rebels were in control.

There have been no less than 11 parties involved in the conflict and its attempts to find a resolution – including the Ethiopian army policing the border between Sudan and South Sudan. The fear of a region-wide conflict is a nightmare for those concerned, observes gossip. One such involvement, which was able to hold the advances of the rebels to the nation’s capital, Juba, were the troops sent by Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni. These men still remain in South Sudan, despite his commitment to leave IGAD forces behind.

It was no clearer last week whether the new deal Kiir and Machar have signed would lead to the departure of the Ugandans, claims gossip. However, what was clear was the mutual contempt these political leaders showed to one another, gossip disclosed.

Flying in direct from Juba, and surrounded by an entourage as large as 100, Kiir was first booked at the Sheraton Addis, gossip revealed. Ethiopian authorities picked up Machar from Gambella town, where the rebel leader was received by president of the regional government, and flown to Addis Abeba the same day, claims gossip. His respective booking at the Sheraton prompted his political archrival to refuse to stay there and thus compelled Ethiopian authorities to host Kiir inside the Jubilee Palace on Menelik II Avenue – after all, he is a head of state, disclosed gossip.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn rewrote history last week, brokering a handshake after the two individuals signed a deal to form a provisional transitional unity government. This means that the recognition so far accorded to the legitimately elected government of President Kiir is over, according to gossip.

The original resident of the Jubilee Palace, Emperor Hailesellasie, had accomplished the same feet in Addis Abeba in the early 1970s, brokering deals between the SSLM and Anya-Nya movements, on the one hand, and the Sudan government on the other, recalls gossip. This deal brought an end to a 17-year war, before it flared up again a decade later, says gossip.

It took Hailemariam to labour through two-hour-long private meetings with both Kiir and Machar to finally implore on these individuals, who are both threatened with accountability by international legal instruments, gossip disclosed. Kiir was seen to be pre-emptive on his move, extending his hands to “expand his government”, hoping to include dissident politicians, claims gossip. This was seen by mediators as simply another attempt to appoint too many ministers to share the spoils of oil, according to gossip. Kiir finally gave in, accepting the formation of the transitional unity government, revealed gossip.

On Friday, the ball was in Machar’s corner, whose forces were still fighting to expand their control of Bentiu and thus cut off supply lines to government forces, claims gossip. He had urged Hailemariam to be granted 72 hours before desisting his forces from combat, claims gossip.

His options were limited, according to gossip. Either he had to concede to the fact that he had no control over the large “white army” that has been wreaking havoc and thus reduce himself to irrelevance; or, commit himself to a pledge that he is in charge and could thus order his fighting forces to stop, claims gossip.

Machar, who was housed in one of the presidential villas at the Sheraton, finally conceded to stopping the fighting in the 24 hours following the signing, whose rite, photo opps and speeches were concluded with Hailemariam’s remarks at midnight on Friday, gossip disclosed.

 



Published on May 11, 2014 [ Vol 14 ,No 732]


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