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Juba suspends Rome peace talks with opposition over claims of war

Juba suspends Rome peace talks with opposition over claims of war
Leaders of the Non-signatory Group to the South Sudan revitalized peace agreement. Courtesy

The government of South Sudan has suspended peace talks with holdout opposition groups, citing dishonesty on the part of the opposition.

The Kiir administration claims the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance and others are “buying time and preparing for war” using the Rome peace process.

It sent a letter to Sant’Egidio that is mediating the talks that it will not be attending the next round of discussions slated for November, 21.

“This letter informs the Community of Sant’Egidio that the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity has suspended its participation in the Rome Peace talks till further notice,” said Dr. Barnaba Marial, Minister of Presidential Affairs.

The government has engaged the opposition groups that refused to join in in the implementation of the current revitalized peace agreement. Through Rome, the government hopes to convince the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA), now branded as Non-signatory Group to support the 2018 peace deal.

The holdout groups are led by Thomas Cirilo of National Salvation Front, Pagan Amum of Real-SPLM, Paul Malong of South Sudan United Front, and Emmanuel Ajawin.

“While we have been preparing to engage in serious dialogue with Non-Signatory South Sudan Opposition Group to bring lasting peace to our country, it has come to our attention that this Group is using these talks to buy time as they prepare for war,” the government alleged in the letter seen by The Radio Community.

The letter undersigned by Dr. Marial further stated that: “All along, we have considered the Rome Initiative as a facilitative avenue for peaceful resolution to the conflict, and not as another repertoire in tactical consideration in the pursuit of military objectives over peaceful means.”

The parties met in Rome in October 2022 for a consultative meeting in preparations for the resumption of the talks. The meeting reportedly sought the positions of each party ahead of the next round of talks.

“Since this new development that used the Rome Initiative as a cover in preparation for war is diametrically opposed to our view on the same, the government took the decision to suspend the talks with Non-Signatory until further notice to prevent the mockery of this noble process,” the letter added.

It is not clear what recent incident prompted the government to conclude the Non-signatory Group were preparing for war.

In the past, the government has often accused NAS led by Thomas Cirillo of launching attacks on civilians and military personnel along the Juba-Nimule highway, and on Lobonok and Liria roads.

The letter, however, affirmed the government’s commitment to the Rome peace process. It invited the Secretary General of Saint’ Egidio to come to Juba for further deliberations on the matter.

“The government is firm on its unequivocal commitment to the Rome Process, and it is within this guarantee that I am inviting you to come to Juba  – subject to your availability to further discuss in person the concerns mentioned above.”

The Non-signatory Group have been quoted by media outlets has denying using the Rome process as cover for returning the country to war.