A delegation sent to Rome by President Salva Kiir is holding talks with opposition groups that refused to sign the revitalized peace agreement aimed at restoring peace and stability to South Sudan.
The meeting which started on Friday was convened by Sant’Egidio Catholic community in Italy to persuade the hold-out groups join the ongoing peace process.
The five-day meeting is a follow-up to last year’s convention in November 2019 when the Catholic Church met leaders of South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA).
The SSOMA is a coalition of nine opposition groups formed in February 2018. Prominent members of the Alliance include former army generals Paul Malong, Thomas Cirollo, and former SPLM secretary general Pagan Mum.
Thomas Cirillo is heading the South Sudan National Salvation Front, while Paul Malong is the chair of National Democratic Movement.
Gen. Cirillo had argued that the 2018 revitalized peace agreement did not address the root causes of the conflict, and that his movement is “not after positions” in reference to the power-sharing formula adopted by the parties to govern the country during the transitional period.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) however rejected reopening the whole agreement for re-negotiations after its signing in September 2018.
Gen. Paul Malong demanded participation in the negotiations of the peace talks but was denied the opportunity by the mediators. He fell out with President Salva Kiir after being dismissed as the army Chief of Staff in 2017.
The government delegation is led by Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the Special Envoy and advisor to Kiir. Other members are Dr. Martin Elia Lomuoro, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Louis Lobong Lojore-the governor of Kapoeta State, Mayiik Ayii Deng- the minister in the Office of the President, and the director general of national security service Gen. Akol Koor Kuc.
“They left on Thursday to meet those other hold-out groups-those who have not signed the revitalized agreement on the resolution on conflict,” Ateny Wek Ateny, the Press Secretary in the Office of the President said on Friday. “The reason is for them to negotiate and bring onboard those who have not signed the peace agreement.”
Last year on Martyrs’ Day, President Kiir reiterated his appeal to Gen. Malong and Cirillo to return home and support the revitalized peace agreement saying he did not consider the opposition leaders as enemies, but the opposition leaders remained defiant watching from a distance the parties to the agreement struggle to implement it.
On January 7, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to South Sudan argued that the longer a unity government is delayed, the more the hold-out groups would justify their reasons for not joining the peace process.
Ambassador Chris Trott said if the peace agreement is implemented, those who have refused to join would be persuaded.
After postponing formation of a unity government, parties to the revitalized peace deal are left with only 41 days to execute pending pre-transitional arrangements such as training and unification of forces, and agreeing on the number and boundaries of states.
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Published Wednesday, April 8, 2020
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