President Kiir: We are open to Rome Talk but…
The government could head back to the negotiating table with the Non-Signatories South Sudanese Opposition Groups (NSSSOG) after dumping the talks last week.
President Salva Kiir changed tune over the matter, revealing that his administration was open to engaging holdout groups if an opportunity presented itself.
The president, however, said that will only happen if the group demonstrated strong commitment.
“We have not closed the doors for future talks with this group; we have invited the… (general secretary) of “Sant’Egidio to Juba to hear our concern with them,” Kiir said.
Kiir stated that the Rome Peace Talk would be resumed only if the holdout group renounced violence and propaganda.
“I have called off the Rome talks until we get a positive response from the rebels (holdout group),” Kiir said.
The decision was made abruptly, according to the head of state, following a highway ambush on the Juba-Nimule Road, in which civilians were killed and scores others injured.
“Last week we were preparing to go to Rome for negotiations, and instead of creating a favourable environment for the resumption of these peace talks they (holdout group) ambushed (a bus) along the Juba Nimule highway.
This has shown us the group is using the Rome Talks as a cover for their preparation for military solutions,” Kiir said
“It is for this reason that we have decided to suspend these talks until that time when this group will show their commitment to resolving this conflict through peaceful means,” he added.
Kiir reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring that all differences are solved using peaceful means.
He said the holdout group have not fully honoured some of the provisions of the agreement.
“Negative propaganda has never stopped from this group,” he added.
He said his leadership would use the Rome Peace Talk to solve differences without any bloodshed.
“I want to say that the reason we have been going for talks is not that we are weak; I thought it was better that we sit down and resolve the differences without any loss of lives,” he said.
“But my colleagues in the bush believe that… they will get what they want, but I do not think they will get it,” he warned.
Show of support
By Wednesday evening, the community of Sant’Egidio that mediates the talks had reaffirmed its commitment to continue with the process.
The development came after a statement alleged to have been authored by the holdout group went viral on social media, alleging that the groups had pledged commitment to the peace talks mediated by the Rome-based Sant’Egidio community.
The holdout group, or South Sudan Opposition Alliance Movement (SSOMA), includes Among them are the Real SPLM, led by Pagan Amum, the Nation Salvation Front (NAS), led by Thomas Cirilo, and the South Sudan United Front, led by Paul Malong Awan.
The move by the head of state to yield for renewed talks comes in the wake of mounting calls for a solution to the matter.
The Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), Edmund Yakani, called on the parties to ensure that they reach a final peace deal before the Pope Francis visit, planned for 2023.
“CEPO is urging the parties to the Rome Peace Talks to take primary responsibility for ensuring that they reach a final peace deal before Pope Francis visits the country,” said Yakani.