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Activists hail government’s decision to resume Rome peace talks

The transitional unity government has been hailed by civil society activists after it recently announced it would resume talks with opposition hold-out groups.

The talks were suspended in November last year, following a spate of road ambushes on civilians in Central Equatoria State which the government blamed on the National Salvation Front rebels led by Thomas Cirilo Swaka.

Ter Manyang Gatwech, the Executive Director for the Centre for Peace and Advocacy said the government’s hands are tied leaving it with no option but to negotiate with the opposition ahead of the December 2024 national elections.

“The government needs to be ready for Rome peace talks, and also they should make details of when they will resume talks, the country needs everybody because if they are going to hold elections next year it is very important for all stake-holders to be involved,” Manyang told The Juba Echo in Juba on Monday.

He suggested that the next round of talks should focus on addressing grievances of the hold-out groups, cessation of hostilities and also human rights violations.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the Minister for Presidential Affairs on Saturday while accompanying President Salva Kiir Mayardit and First Vice President Riek Machar to inspect ongoing preparatory work ahead of Pope Francis arrival on February 3rd, said the President ordered the resumption of negotiations in honor of the coming spiritual leaders.

Edmund Yakani, the Executive Director for community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) said the peace talks mediated by the Catholic community of Saint Egidio have taken so long to bear fruit.

“The lifting of the suspension is a remarkable decision from the President, I welcome it because I believe violence is not the option that the government and hold-out groups should use as a way of resolving their political grievances, “said Yakani.

“If you assess in terms of timeline, Rome peace talks have taken longer time compared to the revitalized peace agreement, we want to see parties to Rome peace talks demonstrating political maturity,” he said.

In late 2019, the government started negotiation with opposition parties under the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) in Italy.

SSOMA is a coalition of opposition parties that refused to sign the 2018 revitalized peace deal.

It comprises of South Sudan United Front/Army led by Paul Malong Awan, the former chief of staff of South Sudan People’s Defense Forces, Real SPLM under Pagan Amum, and Thomas Cirilo Swaka of the National Salvation Front.

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