Gov’t advised not to quit Rome peace talks

Gov’t advised not to quit Rome peace talks
Jame David Kolok, Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance Executive Director (Photo Courtesy)

JUBA – A civil society activist has appealed to the government to reconsider the decision to withdraw from the Sant’Egidio Rome peace talks.

On Monday, while opening the parliament, President Salva Kiir said the quest for an inclusive peace in the country remains a prioritized objective but said the recent killings of innocent civilians along Juba-Nimule highway and on Yei-Juba road ‘‘by elements of SSOMA have tested the government’s patience’’.

“Now that SSOMA, specifically the National Salvation Front (NAS) elements continue to violate these commitments, we have decided to pause the ongoing Sant’Egidio led Rome Peace Initiative. Our pursuit of an inclusive peace should never be taken for weakness and used as a window to kill the innocent,” Kiir said.

He stressed that talks with SSOMA would only resume after they (SSOMA) cease killing the innocent and show their commitment to documents they have signed in Rome.

“It is only when they meet these conditions that genuine dialogue with them will resume,” Kiir stated.

However, the Executive Director for Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance (FODAG) David Jame Kolok has warned that the move would jeopardize the necessity of inclusion and could present a blow to the peace quest.

“So we thought this would have been an opportunity in which any decision that is made must be comprehensively undertaken to be able to ensure that we don’t necessarily create a situation where some people will feel that they are left out and they will continue to violate human rights,” Kolok said.

“Our advice is that the president needs to reconsider…I think these are some of the issues that can still be addressed within the contest of the dialogue and the discussion at the Sant Egidio.

“Putting the peace talks on halt will allow the holdout groups to decide otherwise [and] this may not be necessarily good for the entire peace process and it will not be good for the safety of civilians on this [Juba – Nimule] road as well as other towns,” Kolok stated.

The activist said they believe that this process must move quickly to ensure completion of the Sant Egidio process to include the holdout groups in the ceasefire deal.

He lauded the president’s reconstitution of parliament as ‘overdue’ because parliament can now move quickly to be able to contribute towards the implementation of the peace agreement.”

In December 2017, the government signed with SSOMA the Rome Declaration and Rome Resolution, on the Recommitment to Cessation of Hostilities (COH) and the Declaration of Principles.
Kiir stressed that the goal of signing these documents was to stop fighting and save innocent lives.

“This was our commitment to inclusivity. In addition, these documents were also part of the confidence-building process between the parties aimed at giving negotiations a chance for success to achieve lasting peace. ‘This is a win-win situation for all the parties.”

He hinted that the recent disagreement within the SPLM/A-IO was a matter of concern to all of them and urged the SPLM-IO leadership to pursue dialogue and end those disputes peacefully.

“We have covered a long distance in our work to implement the Revitalised Peace Agreement. This is not the time to allow an internal rift within the party to reverse the gains we have achieved. Let us all remain united in calling for dialogue as a means for resolving this dispute,” Kiir stated.

He talked about cattle rustling and inter-communal violence at the communal level, the states and counties which he said are worrying some and need the government’s attention.

“Now that you have been sworn in and your order of business launched, your focus should turn to support our efforts to address the above challenges,” President Kiir said.