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South Sudan suspends peace talks with holdout opposition groups

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February 2, 2021 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s government has suspended peace talks with the holdout opposition groups brokered by the Sant’Egidio community.

Talks between South Sudan government and opposition alliance took place in Rome, Italy from October 9-12, 2020 (courtesy photo)

Talks mediated by the Sant’Egidio religious community with the support of the regional bloc (IGAD) were due to resume in January between the government and a faction of South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) led by Paul Malong and Pagan Amum, but the office of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir they will not proceed as planned, citing “developments beyond control”.

The Minister for the Presidency, Nhial Deng Nhial regretted, through a letter to the mediation team, postponing the talks which he says would be convened when a new date is fixed and communicated.

“As you may be aware, the delegation of the revitalized transitional government of national unity was scheduled to depart today (Saturday 30th) for Rome via Addis Ababa to participate in peace negotiations under your kind auspices, with South Sudan United Front and Real SPLM components of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance. I regret to inform you that this will no longer be possible due to the last-minute developments that are beyond our control”, wrote Nhial in a January 30, 2021 letter seen by Sudan Tribune.

The top presidential aide asked for a postponement of the talks until further notice, saying a new date would be communicated once circumstances prompting the postponement of the talks were addressed.

He did not divulge details of circumstances that halted the talks.

The spokesperson for the government delegation, Benjamin Marial said the postponement of the talks was due to health matters.

He said some members of the government delegation tested positive for COVID-19 and have to adhere to the health protocols including quarantine and retests until they are certified for travel.

“It has been postponed and a new date is being set. It was postponed because of some health reasons. They had to test all the members of the delegation so that they certify everybody is free. That was the reason. Otherwise, the talks are not endangered in any way. So, when we have new date and after testing and quarantine, we can go,” Marial told Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday.

Officials in the office of the South Sudanese president attributed the cause to division over the nomination of the delegates and whether not delegated members should be authorized to conclude talks with a faction of Gen. Malong and Amum groups.

For instance, while some of the officials prefer a comprehensive settlement of the conflict, others, according to sources at the presidency, advocates for a piecemeal negotiation with a view of denying and weakening positions of opposition at the talks.

The opposition groups with which the government wants to negotiate a deal are depicted as individuals without military weight and posing no threat to the national security of the country.

A group under the leadership of Thomas Cirillo had accused Malong and Amum’s factions of trying to negotiate a return to the status quo, rather than addressing real issues which prompted the formation of their factions as opposition to the government.

(ST)

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