South Sudan’s information minister says IGAD mediators are ‘forcing’ both sides of conflict to accept terms of peace deal.South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makue has accused the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) – an East African regional bloc mediating South Sudan’s ongoing conflict – of “forcing” both sides to accept a peace agreement.

IAGD, Makue said at a Saturday press conference in Addis Ababa, “has moved from mediator to dictator”.

He added: “We are being forced to sign a deal about which we aren’t convinced.”

Under the terms of a revamped peace initiative dubbed “IGAD-Plus,” South Sudan’s rival camps – the government of President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar’s rebel forces – have until August 17 to hammer out a final peace agreement.

Negotiators from both sides were recently given a “compromise document” by IGAD-Plus, which calls for concessions by both sides of the conflict.

Makue, however, says both sides are being strong-armed into approving the document.

“The parties [to the conflict] are being forced to accept the document without a chance to negotiate,” Makue asserted.

He challenged several provisions of the document, especially those pertaining to a proposed federalist system of government; power sharing; executive authority; the formation of the national executive assembly; and calls to temporarily “demilitarize” capital Juba.

Makue went on to describe the appointment of foreign nationals to the chairmanship of a Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee on South Sudan and National Election Commission as “a new form of colonialism”.

“We [South Sudanese] are supposed to chair these institutions,” he said.

In an IGAD statement issued Saturday, members of the IGAD-Plus initiative voiced hope that upcoming talks in Addis Ababa would be successful.

“We expect the parties to be represented by their principals to negotiate in good faith and sign an agreement on August 17,” the statement read.

However, a source close to the mediation process told Anadolu Agency on the same day that South Sudanese President Salva Kiir was unlikely to attend upcoming talks in the Ethiopian capital.

South Sudan has been torn by conflict since late 2013, when Kiir accused Machar, his sacked vice president, of leading a coup attempt against him. In the one and a half years since, tens of thousands of people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced.

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