South Sudan government to wait for longer to tame rebellion

South Sudan government to wait for longer to tame rebellion
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)

President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar may have signed a revitalised peace agreement in 2018 to champion long-desired political stability, but much remains unresolved to bring the country to its desired state.

The deal put an end to the conflict, but there is still a big dragon to slay: the question of the holdout factions that have yet to be accommodated.

The talks between the government and a coalition of rebel groups that are non-signatories to the 2018 peace agreement are still far from a success. Although the negotiations conducted by the Community of Sant’Egidio began in 2019, several violations continue to surface despite a ceasefire signed in January 2020. This implies that 2022, which would have been a year of hope, went down the drain once more, like the others.

More armed and non-dissident groups, including the National Salvation Front (NAS), the South Sudan United Front Army (SSUF/A), the SPLM-IO Kitgwang of Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual, and the SPLM-IO Kitgwang of Gen. Johnson Olony, continue to exchange accusations with government forces over attacks, despite the two pending agreements they signed—Rome peace talks for SSOMA and Khartoum peace agreement for Kitgwang faction.

In a letter dated November 21 and addressed to the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, Presidential Affairs Minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, noted that the government had suspended its participation in the Rome Peace talks till further notice, citing violations of the ceasefire deal. That was after a deadly road ambush along the Juba-Nimule Road by unknown gunmen.

“While we have been preparing to engage in serious dialogue with the Non-Signatory South Sudan Opposition Group to bring lasting peace to our country, it has come to our attention that this group is using these talks to buy time as they prepare for war,” Marial noted, although with a cagey commitment to further talks.

However, the holdout groups denied the allegation, calling on the government to reverse the decision and embark on the Rome Peace Initiative for inclusive peace in South Sudan. 

In a statement sent to the media, the Non-Signatory South Sudan Opposition Group (NSSOG) said it was “dismayed by the government’s move” and called on Juba to reverse its decision.

This was then followed by a visit by a delegation from the Sant’Egidio community, who met President Salva Kiir to discuss the resumption of Rome peace talks between the government and the holdout groups.

The meeting was held immediately following the suspension of talks in the hope of exploring an appropriate resumption after the government suspended talks in November citing a lack of commitment from the holdout group, which includes SSOMA parties Paul Malong and Pag’an Amum.

Addressing the media, Marial said Kiir had assured the community of Sant’Egidio of his commitment to support the peace process and bring together both sides to agree on an inclusive process.

The Secretary-General of the Sant’Egidio community, Paolo Impagliazzo, promised to continue mediating between the government and holdout groups to find amicable solutions to conflicts.

“We will continue to mediate between the government and holdout groups in order to find an amicable solution for the sake of the South Sudanese people,” he said.

“We are committed to bringing the two sides closer for a common understanding to restore peace and stability in South Sudan.” he added

Earlier in 2022, the government signed a peace agreement in Sudan with the Kitgwang faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement, led by Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual and Gen. John Olony’s Agwelek forces.

However, the deal, which was signed by the Presidential Adviser on National Security Affairs, Tut Gatluak, may have failed to materialise judging from the bitter fallout between Gatwech and Olony.

Even after a delegation of 31 military officers from the SPLM/A-IO Kit-Gwang faction arrived in Juba to follow up on the implementation of the Khartoum Peace Agreement on February 16, 2022, the progress has either remained secret or stagnated.