Saint’Egidio to meet Kiir over Rome peace talks

Saint’Egidio to meet Kiir over Rome peace talks
Minister of Presidential Affairs Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin (left) holds hands with Secretary-General of the Community of Sant’Egidio Paolo Impagliazzo (centre) and SSOMA’s Pagan Amum during a past Rome talk session (photo credit: courtesy)

JUBA – The Secretary-General of the Community of Sant’Egidio Paolo Impagliazzo has expressed concerns over the Rome peace talks and promised to meet President Salva Kiir to discuss the way forward.

On Monday, President Salva Kiir suspended the talks with the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) over continuous road ambushes along major roads in the country.

Kiir accused forces of the holdout groups of SSOMA, particularly the National Salvation Front of Gen. Thomas Cirilo Swaka, of being behind the recent attack along Juba-Nimule road that claimed the lives of two Catholic nuns and three other passengers.

SSOMA is comprised of the National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Gen Thomas Cirilo Swaka, the former army chief Gen. Paul Malong Awan leader of South Sudan United Front (SSUF), and Gen. Pagan Amum Okech, leader of Real SPLM.

“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.”

“Talks with SSOMA will only resume after they cease killing the innocent people and show their commitment to documents they have signed in Rome. It is only when they meet these conditions that genuine dialogue will resume,” Kiir stressed at the inauguration of the first season of the parliament on Monday.

Kiir added, “We have signed the Rome Declaration and Rome Resolutions with SSOMA, and the re-commitment to the Cessation of Hostility in December 2017 and Declaration of Principle. The goal of signing these documents was to stop fighting and save innocent lives. These were our commitment to inclusivity,”

But, SSOMA denied responsibility for carrying out attacks along the Juba-Nimule highway, and on other roads in the country.

“The South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) denounces and condemns in the strongest term possible the statement by the president. SSOMA calls on the international communities and other international relevant organizations to investigate the incidences and inform the people of South Sudan of the perpetrators of these killings,” SSOMA said in a statement on August 18.

They added, “SSOMA is committed to the Declaration of Principles and confirmed its commitment to the cessation of hostility, however, reserves the right to defend itself and the people of South Sudan when attacked.”

Mending the rift

However, speaking to UN-owned Radio Miraya yesterday, the Secretary-General of the Community of Sant’Egidio Paolo Impagliazzo said he would push parties to resume the talks and end violence in South Sudan.

“I believe that dialogue is very, very important, and we have to continue as far as we can to push the parties back to the table and to negotiate. We will continue to mediate,” he said.

“There will be a possibility to meet with the President to discuss the way forward, and we are of course in touch with Thomas Cirilo, and we are doing our best to narrow the gap,” Impagliazzo added.

Parties on several times have suspended the Rome mediated peace talks over alleged lack of respect to the agreement and targeted killings.

In April 2021, SSOMA accused the pro-government security apparatus of assassinating one of its commanders in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and boycotted the negotiations.