South Sudan's rebels and government say they will both send senior officials to a special meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on September 29.
The meeting, which follows an invitation by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, is aimed at galvanizing the international community’s support for the implementation of South Sudan’s recently signed peace agreement.
Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the foreign affairs secretary of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition, says rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar will attend.
“He will be leading a high-level delegation of the SPLM/SPLA to attend this summit. This summit is important to us because it is basically organized to mobilize the world in the level of heads of state and government to support the implementation of the peace agreement,” said Gatkuoth.
He outlined expectations of the rebels at the special summit on South Sudan.
"We will be achieving the world supporting peace in South Sudan, [by] mobilizing the world [and] resources to reconstruct South Sudan…Also to help in the resettlement of the IDPs [Internally Displaced People], and refugees in the neighboring countries…We have [fallen] off, but now with this agreement, we have gotten up and we are ready to work and face the challenges of state and nation building,” said Gatkuoth.
South Sudan’s government has also accepted the invitation. Vice President James Wani Igga will lead the country’s delegation to the conference, according to foreign minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin. Benjamin says he expects that discussions to be positive, not about punishment and negativity.
“The international community, especially the United Nations, should really recognize the effort that the President of the republic of South Sudan Salva Kiir is doing with regards to bringing peace to his country,” said Benjamin.
“I think the United Nations as such forums will understand the positions of South Sudan that they do care for their people, that they are a part of the family of nations…and that they are willing to listen to their people and to their friends…In such forums, always it is important so that they will have the patience to listen to our story,” he added.
The comments come after representatives of the rebels and government security officials began talks at a five-day workshop in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Sunday. The talks were organized by mediators from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc. Discussions will include the full implementation of a permanent cease-fire agreement and monitoring mechanism, disengagement of forces, establishment of demilitarized zones, and withdrawal of foreign forces.
Gatkuoth says the country’s conflict was as a result of institutional failures, and the workshop will seek to address some of those, including the future structure of an army in South Sudan.
“All the institutions failed and that is why we went into the crisis. The leadership did not govern the country well, the army as an institution did not do well, the legislature, the civil, service and the security sector, all of them did not do what they were supposed to do,” he added.