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South Sudan president wants peace with holdout group: top aide


Sant'Egidio Mediator Paolo Impagliazzo (C) poses with Barnaba Marial Benjamin (L) and Thomas Cirilo shaking hands after signing a ceasefire agreement in Roma on 14 Feb 2020 (Sant Egidio photo)
February 11, 2021 (JUBA) - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit is committed to negotiating a peaceful settlement with all armed and non-opposition groups paving the way for peace, stability, and development, a senior advisor said on Thursday.

“Our people have suffered, and His Excellency the President of the Republic, General Salva Kiir Mayardit is committed to ending this suffering. He has now directed us to resume talks with the holdout groups," Barnaba Marial Benjamin Presidential Envoy and ranking member of the government negotiating team, told the Sudan Tribune on Thursday when reached to comment on the status of the talks.

Benjamin stressed that talks with members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOMA), were on the right track before they were suspended.

The Sant’Egidio religious community which borders a peace process between the government and SOMMA factions had called for meeting between the government and SSOMA faction led by Paul Malong and Pagan Amum by the end of January

However, the South Sudanese government requested to postpone the meeting speaking about "developments beyond control". The delay had opened the door for speculations and rumours.

The former minister of foreign affairs further downplayed difference of opinion within the presidency over who should be delegated and the powers with which to engage in the talks caused the government to suspend resumption of the talks due earlier this month.

Instead, he attributed the cause to contraction of the COVID-19 by some participants, requiring them to recover and resume the process in good health.

"The process was suspended because some delegates contracted coronavirus. So, because they were important members it was agreed that it not necessary to replace them but that they should be given some time to recover so that they can resume the talks when they are okay,” stressed Benjamin.

The presidential envoy assured that peace was not around the corner, but the government and opposition were on the road to peace.

He cited Rome Declaration and Rome Resolutions as an indication and commitment to cessations of hostilities signed in 2017 as an indication that the peace process was going ahead.

“We should not be pessimistic. We should be optimistic because the president is committed to bringing everybody on board. All the opposition groups and anybody with anything to say about how the country should be run will be heard, either through mediation or through other internal processes and dialogues”, he explained.

Benjamin cited the Jonglei Peace Conference, the Terekeka Peace Conference, the Tonj community Peace Conference and the Upper Nile Peace Conference as part of the efforts exerted by President Kiir to end conflicts cropping everywhere in the country by allowing people to discuss among themselves how differences could be resolved through dialogue instead of guns.


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