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Pope Francis (Left) meeting with President Salva Kiir (Right) at the Presidential office in Juba.

President Kiir lifts suspension on Rome Peace Talks

President Salva Kiir Mayardit has ordered his government to resume the Rome peace talks with opposition hold-out groups after suspending them in November last year.

 The decision to reopen hitherto stalled talks with groups that backed out of the 2018 revitalized peace process came on the eve of Pope Francis’s visit on Friday.

 “In honour of the Holy Father Pope Francis‘s historic visit to our country, and our declaration of 2023 as the year of peace and reconciliation, I am officially announcing the lifting of the suspension of the Rome peace talks with the hold-out groups,” said Kiir while speaking during Pontiff’s visit to the Presidential office in Juba.

Kiir went on to express his hope of the opposition groups reciprocating to this gesture and engage in honest talks with his government to achieve inclusive peace in the country.

The government accused the hold-out opposition groups under the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) umbrella of lacking “lacking commitment” and preparing for war after a series of deadly road ambushes blamed on particularly, the National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Thomas Cirilo Swaka.

 Kiir described the Pope’s presence as a “historic milestone” and expressed his deep gratitude for the visit he expects to leave a positive impact on the national conscience and peace in the country.

“This historic visit of these global Christian leaders must compel us to engage in deep thinking about our recent history, especially on how it relates to the noble task of peace consolidation and the important projects of reconciliation and forgiveness among our people,” he said.

 The President recalled the spiritual retreat in which he participated in the Vatican in 2019 during which the Pope kissed his feet and those of other leaders.

 “That rare gesture did not go in vain, today both Dr. Riek (the Vice-President) and I are seated here working collectively to implement the revitalized peace agreement we signed in 2018,” said Kiir.

He said that they extended the transitional period by 24 months in September last year, guided by the desire for an inclusive political process.

“We did this to give ourselves time to plan and create institutions that will permit for holding credible and transparent elections, which are the end game of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. The fact that the Roadmap was developed exclusively by the Parties to the Agreement is itself an encouraging sign in our path to political maturity,” he explained.

Kiir said that  the Roadmap will be used to fast-track the implementation of outstanding provisions in the revitalized peace agreement and to build on the successes they have already achieved, such as the graduation of unified forces.

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