South Sudan’s Kiir says no compromise to end peace deal deadlock

Riek Machar, former vice president and rebel leader, with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit, left, in Juba, South Sudan. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 February 2020

South Sudan’s Kiir says no compromise to end peace deal deadlock

  • Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar are under increasing pressure to resolve their differences by February 22 and form a unity government
  • The pair have already missed two previous deadlines to enshrine peace to end a war that has left at least 380,000 people dead

JUBA: South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Friday dismissed international calls for compromise with his foes to break a deadlock that threatens a cease-fire in their six year war.
Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar are under increasing pressure to resolve their differences by February 22 and form a unity government as part of a peace agreement.
The pair have already missed two previous deadlines to enshrine peace to end a war that has left at least 380,000 people dead and millions in dire poverty.
But with a week to go before the clock runs out, Kiir said he would not back down on the key sticking point of the deal — the number of regional states in the young nation.
“This thing cannot work, because we cannot solve problems with another problem,” Kiir said, as he addressed supporters at a rally in the capital Juba.
The number of states is contentious because the borders will determine the divisions of power in the country.
When it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan had 10 states, as set out in the country’s constitution. Kiir increased that in 2015 to 28, and then later 32.
Critics said redrawing the state boundaries was a divide-and-rule plan to split opposition strongholds and ensure government loyalists dominated.
Kiir argues reducing the states would cause conflict, and dismissed Machar’s proposal to a return to the original 10.
“When Riek Machar said ‘let us return to 10 states,’ I told him, my brother... what will you do with the civil servants in the 32 states?” Kiir said on Friday.
Machar has said he cannot return to his old job as vice president if the status quo on states remains.
Envoys have called on both sides to stick to their cease-fire and to compromise.
“A credible unity government needs to be inclusive... and cannot be formed on the basis of unilateral action,” Britain, the United States and Norway said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
Kiir and Machar are old rivals who have fought and made up multiple times.
“We urge the parties to not allow the peace agreement to collapse just because of dispute on the number of states,” the South Sudan Civil Society Forum said Friday, an umbrella group of over 200 development organizations.


Harvey Weinstein jury reaches verdict in his rape, sexual assault trial in New York

Updated 28 min 10 sec ago

Harvey Weinstein jury reaches verdict in his rape, sexual assault trial in New York

NEW YORK: Jurors in the sexual assault trial of former movie producer Harvey Weinstein have reached a verdict on their fifth day of deliberations on Monday.
The verdict was not immediately announced in criminal court in Manhattan.
Weinstein arrived at court after breakfast at the Four Seasons New York Downtown hotel, wearing a navy blue suit and leaning on a walker. He appeared to be in an upbeat mood.
“Good morning everyone,” he said as he passed journalists in the courthouse hallway and paused for photos.
Weinstein, 67, pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress.
On Friday, the jury of seven men and five women asked the judge whether they could be hung on two counts of predatory sexual assault and unanimous on the others, which include first-degree rape.
Conviction on the predatory assault charges, which carry a potential life sentence, would indicate that Weinstein is a repeat sexual offender. Two of the other three charges carry prison terms of up to 25 years; a third carries a sentence of up to 4 years.
Legal experts said the jury’s questions suggested they were nearing a guilty verdict on at least one of the five counts against the producer of movies including “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love.”
Weinstein has denied the charges. A source within Weinstein’s defense team said speculation about the verdict would be “premature and a mistake.”
Paul Callan, a former prosecutor, said an acquittal is still possible and “anything can happen after a weekend of reflection.” The jury began its deliberations last Tuesday.
During the weeks-long trial Haleyi testified that Weinstein invited her to his Manhattan home in 2006 and then backed her into a bedroom and forcibly performed oral sex on her.
Mann said that soon after meeting Weinstein she began an “extremely degrading” relationship with him that never included intercourse until, she alleged, he raped her in March 2013.
Another accuser, Annabella Sciorra, best known for her role in HBO’s “The Sopranos,” testified that Weinstein came to her New York apartment one winter night in 1993 or 1994, raped her and then forced oral sex on her.
That accusation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, but was introduced by prosecutors as an aggravating factor for the predatory sexual assault charges.
Jurors appeared to focus on Sciorra’s allegations on Thursday and Friday, asking to review extensive evidence related to her.
Jurors can convict Weinstein of predatory sexual assault if they find that he committed the alleged assault against Sciorra and at least one of the alleged crimes against Haleyi or Mann.
Defense lawyer Michael Bachner, who is not involved in the case, said it seemed the jury had decided to convict Weinstein on the counts related to the individual complainants.
“Otherwise there really would be no reason for them to be considering the testimony of Ms. Sciorra,” Bachner said on Friday.
However, legal experts cautioned that the jurors could be confused by the complexity of the predatory sexual assault charges and the verdict sheet.
Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. He has said any sexual encounters were consensual.
The allegations fueled the #MeToo movement, in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct. (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Additional reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)