Heads of State and Government from member countries of IGAD have set Tuesday next week to mediate on the South Sudan conflict and have called for an end to hostilities to pave way for talks.
The officials took the decision during their extra-ordinary assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, on Friday where they also appointed General Lazaro Sumbeiwo of Kenya and Ambassador Seyoum Mesfinof of Ethiopia as special envoys for South Sudan.
The two are expected to lead mediations and broker a peace agreement between President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and his renegade sacked Vice President Dr. Riek Machar.
Two weeks of violence in the country have so far killed tens of thousands of people and displaced several others.
IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) brings together eight African countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda to nurture their peace, prosperity, and regional integration.
The group’s Heads of State and Government meeting in Kenya was attended by its chairperson and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia, and President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda.
It also attracted Bakri Hassan Saleh, First Vice President of the Republic of the Sudan and Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Sudan.
The officials condemned “all unconstitutional actions to challenge the constitutional order, democracy, and the rule of law” in South Sudan and particularly condemned “changing the democratic government of the Republic of South Sudan through use of force”.
“If hostilities do not cease within 4 days of this communiqué, the Summit will consider taking further measures,” the officials said in their final release after their meeting held at State House in Nairobi.
They requested all parties in South Sudan to accept a monitoring, verification and stabilisation mechanism and to undertake “urgent measures in pursuit of an all-inclusive dialogue.”
The dialogue will include reviewing the status of the detainees in recognition of their role in accordance with the laws of the Republic of South Sudan, and in creating a conducive environment for all stakeholders to participate.
The envisaged dialogue will bring the fighting groups in face-to-face talks by the 31st of December 2013 (Tuesday), the leaders decided.
The decisions were taken a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta held talks in Juba with President Salva Kiir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Member states of IGAD have also directed that all humanitarian actors move quickly and provide all necessary assistance to all civilians.
They have also urged the Government of South Sudan and all armed groups to open humanitarian corridors and ensure protection of civilians.
Meanwhile, former South Sudan Vice President Dr. Riek Machar has said that a ceasefire with the government can only happen if it was serious, credible, and properly monitored.
The Government of South Sudan has said that it was ready for negotiations with the rebels and has warned that they refrain from exploiting the ceasefire to continue killing civilians.