President Kiir will have to approve the 'arrest without warrant' bill within 30 days for it to become law.  / Photo: Reuters

South Sudan peace talks that almost reached completion face a stumbling block with opposition groups demanding a newly passed bill allowing the detention of people without an arrest warrant scratched out 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 9 million.

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."

First general elections

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 law. This 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," Amum said. “There can be no peace or democracy under such a law.”

Attending the peace talks is the executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, a non-profit that engages university students and fresh graduates. Edmund Yakani criticised the security bill and said it “created a negative spirit for the negotiations."

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

'Talks for hope'

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 finishing up the country's constitution and electoral laws, as well as set up 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.”

Click here to follow our WhatsApp channel for more stories.