10 July 2024

South Sudan peace talks face collapse over new security law

10 July 2024

South Sudan peace talks which have almost reached completion face a stumbling block, with opposition groups demanding a newly-passed Bill allowing the detention of people without an arrest warrant be scrapped in order to sign a proposed agreement.

Kenya has been hosting high-level meetings since May between government representatives and rebel opposition groups who were not part of a 2018 agreement that ended a five-year civil war, leaving about 400,000 people dead and millions displaced. Despite the agreement, violence often erupted in the country of nine million people.

Pagan Amum Okiech, negotiating on behalf of the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance, told the Associated Press on Tuesday night that it would be “meaningless to sign any agreement if the draconian National Security Act is signed into law by the president”.

Last week, parliament voted in favour of the 2015 Bill and President Salva Kiir will have to approve it within 30 days for it to become a law.

It comes ahead of the country’s first-ever election on December 22.

This law violates the fundamental rights and freedoms of South Sudanese citizens, it eliminates civic and political space. There can be no peace or democracy under such a law

“This law violates the fundamental rights and freedoms of South Sudanese citizens, it eliminates civic and political space,” Mr Amum said. “There can be no peace or democracy under such a law.”

Edmund Yakani, executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, a non-profit body that engages university students and new graduates, is attending the peace talks.

He criticised the security Bill and said it “created a negative spirit for the negotiations”.

Human Rights Watch has also called on President Kiir to reject the controversial Bill, saying it will further undermine human rights and strengthen national security agencies that have a history of longstanding rights abuses.

The talks – dubbed Tumaini, Swahili for “hope” – have resulted in a draft agreement proposing to extend the country’s transitional period and postpone the coming election to allow finalising of the country’s constitution and electoral laws, as well as the setting up of constituency borders and a unified security force as proposed in the 2018 peace talks.

Some Western envoys also recommend delaying the poll “to guarantee a free and fair election”.

Mr Kiir is adamant about holding the election in December.

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