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Sant’Egidio urges "full inclusivity" in South Sudan peace process

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Barnaba Marial Benjamin shakes hands Thomas Cirilo after signing Ceasefire agreement in Roma on 14 Feb 2020 (Sant Egidio photo)
By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi

October 18, 2020 (JUBA) - Despite the internal divisions within the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) which happened just before the start of the recently concluded Rome peace process between the Revitalized Transitional Government of Nation Unity (RTGoNU) and SSOMA under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Community is urging inclusion of all the parties in the talks.

“We are not intentioned to exclude and we are in no capacity to exclude anyone from the table. We need full inclusivity to achieve good results in this peace process, so we won’t exclude anyone from the table of negotiations,” The Head of International Relations at Community of Sant’Egidio Mauro Garofalo (PhD) said last Thursday on Sawa Sawa Network’s program The Weekly Review.

Garofalo said though the divisions within SSOMA were “not easy to handle,” the outcomes of the peace talks were “encouraging.”

The negotiations which took five days, he said, focused on two major issues: going back to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that government and SSOMA had early this year committed themselves to honour, and a discussion on political principles “that could pave a common road between the government and SSOMA.”

“Two documents were issued by the negotiation which are still confidential. There is a commitment of SSOMA to fully participate in the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM). So there is already a date in which this will start with a technical workshop,” Garofalo said.

“The second outcome is that we started, not yet finished, a common declaration of political principles that we hope could pave the way for the full participation of SSOMA into the general peace process which they are not part of so far.”

On the same programme, Garofalo emphasized what is known as a Sant’Egidio’s peace-making method which does not encourage competition.

“Competition is very harmful to negotiations. Not only between the parties but also between mediators. Sometimes it happens that we have to attend meetings of mediation among mediators to establish who does what. Instead of competition, we need complementarity and a common base to roll everybody in the same direction. As Pope Francis said, we are all in the same boat in this world. So, this is also a guiding principle for us,” the Head of International Relations at Community of Sant’Egidio said, adding that “We made it very clear also during the talks that it is important for all the groups to work towards, not [necessarily] the unity of the group, but the unity of the efforts for peace.”

Sant’Egidio Community as impartial broker

SSOMA is not a signatory to the Igad-mediated 2018 Peace Agreement: The Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

However, in a Communiqué in November 2019, an extraordinary session of Igad Council of ministers on the situation in South Sudan directed the Igad Special Envoy for South Sudan to “continue engaging the non-signatories to the R-ARCSS,” and provided him “the requisite political support,” according to the resolution.

The Rome Peace Process had since been going on in collaboration with IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, and other local, regional and international bodies and mechanisms as observers.

Garofalo further said Sant’Egidio has a longstanding history of friendship with the people of South Sudan, adding that they are not driven by any interest except helping the young nation attain peace. He explained that the Community’s current peace efforts started in a number of ways immediately when the Revitalized Agreement was not signed by all in 2018.

“We were friends of South Sudan before South Sudan existed…We were there during the old negotiations…We were there in 2011 when the miracle of Independence was achieved. We were there chanting and dancing with South Sudanese. So, it’s a longstanding history of friendship. We never lose hope of helping a prosperous and peaceful South Sudan. Of course, history has gone a different way but we won’t save any effort to help the country we love so dearly,” the Head of International Relations at The Community of Sant’Egidio said.

“We are not a government. We are not a think-tank. We are not the expression of “this or that” interest. We are a Catholic community, Christian Community. In this sense, what really moves Sant’Egidio to work for peace is peace in itself. To save populations and civilians from suffering. And we have no stake in any crisis. We have no economic, military, strategic or political interest. In the sense, we are perceived as [an] impartial broker.”

"Pope Francis did something for South Sudan that never happened in history before. He knelt in front of the leadership of the Country and begged for peace. We as a Catholic movement we believe we should give flesh and bones to this prophetic gesture of the Pope," Garofalo said.

The next round of peace talks is scheduled to resume on 30th next month.

The full interview is available at https://web.facebook.com/sawasawasouthsudan/videos/1227214447665042

(ST)

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