South Sudan rebel chief Riek Machar has agreed to sign a final peace deal with the government to end a brutal civil war after initially refusing to ink it on Tuesday, a Sudanese mediator said.
Machar and President Salva Kiir have held weeks of talks in Khartoum in search of a comprehensive peace deal to end the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions since 2013 in the world’s youngest country.
The warring parties have already inked several agreements, including a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing deal that sees Machar returning as first vice president in the government.
But earlier on Tuesday in what was seen as a setback to ongoing peace efforts, Machar refused to sign the deal even as Juba inked it.
Hours later the Sudanese mediators announced that he had agreed to sign it.
“After intense negotiations by Sudanese mediators, Riek Machar agreed to sign the document on Thursday, August 30,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed told reporters.
Ahmed said Machar had expressed some reservations about the deal, which the mediators will forward to the regional East Africa bloc IGAD, which is leading the latest peace effort aimed at ending the civil war in South Sudan.
Machar and other rebel groups had initially refused to sign the draft, saying their reservations had not been acknowledged in the text.
The rebel groups had differences over the functioning of a proposed transitional government, how many states the country should be divided into and on the writing of a new constitution.
“For the first time, the opposition told us that it will not sign,” Ahmed said, showing the draft text to reporters and diplomats who had gathered for what was expected to be a preliminary signing ceremony in Khartoum.
He said the text was the final document drafted after consulting all South Sudanese parties.
“South Sudan will not have peace unless these groups sign,” Ahmed said.
The rebels had expressed surprise after the mediators drafted the final deal despite several outstanding issues that had to be resolved.
“This is an unfortunate development that will not reflect well on the impartiality of the mediators and will throw doubt into the whole process,” the rebels said in a joint statement.
“We therefore urge the mediators to allow the parties to resolve these critical matters of contention.”
The Sudanese minister had said the opposition’s refusal to sign spelt the end of the current Khartoum round of talks.
“This was the last round of negotiation,” Ahmed said, adding that the mediators would submit the text to IGAD, although it was unclear when the bloc’s leaders would meet to discuss it.
Earlier this month, Kiir and Machar signed a power-sharing deal that will see the rebel leader return to the government as the first of five vice presidents.
That accord was to pave the way for a final peace deal and the formation of a transitional government that would hold power until elections are held.
But international backers of the peace process had raised doubts about whether the deal would stick given the depth of animosity between South Sudan’s leaders which dates back to the 1990s when Machar first broke ranks at the height of the war for independence from Khartoum.
“Considerable challenges lie ahead, and we are concerned that the arrangements agreed to date are not realistic or sustainable,” the United States, Britain and Norway said in a joint statement on August 10.
“Given their past leadership failures, South Sudanese leaders will need to behave differently and demonstrate commitment to peace and good governance,” they said.
South Sudan finally became independent from Sudan in 2011, but a little over two years later a fresh war erupted pitting Kiir against Machar, his former deputy.
The conflict has seen widespread rape and murder of civilians, often along ethnic lines, and uprooted roughly a third of the population.
A succession of peace deals have been signed between the two leaders only to be broken, most recently in December.
Each time, the two sides have traded blame for the breakdown and the resulting bloodshed.
New Law To Criminalize Activities Of Opposition Political Parties in Tanzania
At least ten opposition parties in Tanzania have said proposed amendments to a law governing political parties in the country would criminalise their activities.
Critics have accused President John Magufuli, of increasingly cracking down on dissent with restrictions on the political opposition, the media, bloggers and non-governmental organisations. His government denies the accusations.
Chairman of one of the 10 parties Hashim Rungwe, said at a news conference in the capital Dar es salaam, the proposed amendments would curtail constitutional freedoms.
He says the proposed bill is against the constitution and political parties were not involved from initial stages and their views were not considered.
Rungwe, says, the bill is full of criminal punishments for minor infringements which make political activities crimes.”
Among its provisions, the new law would ban parties from functioning as “activist” groups. It would give sweeping powers to a government official to suspend or fire a party member for a range of reasons, and also gives the official influence over internal party elections.
The government says the law, is needed to force parties to adhere to the country’s constitution.
Kenya Unveils New Currency Coins
In Kenya, new currency coins that replace the images of presidents with animals has been unveiled.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said while presiding over the roll out in the capital Nairobi, the features on the new 1, 5,10 and 20 shillings coins embrace Kenya’s historical and cultural heritage.
Central Bank officials, say the new-look coins, featuring a lion, elephant, hippo and giraffe, will serve as a means of passing knowledge, conserving culture, and promoting Kenya’s global uniqueness. Authorities also say the coins have features that are more appealing to visually impaired people.
Kenyan constitution, that came into effect eight years ago, prohibits the use of a person’s portrait on the country’s currencies.
Somali Lawmakers Drop Impeachment Motion Against President Mohamed
Somali legislators have dropped an impeachment motion against President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Close to a hundred members of parliament had submitted on Sunday a vote of no confidence on the president. They said he secretly signed agreements that touched on the use of Somali ports and economic and security cooperation with other countries including Ethiopia and Eritrea.
He was also accused of violating Somalia’s federalism law, and the rules and regulations of parliament. The impeachment process could not be initiated because of a lack of support and required number of signatures.
A parliamentary clerk issued a statement saying 14 legislators had withdrawn their names from the 92 who supported the move. They said their names were wrongly used, and they did not support the motion.
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