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South Sudan’s Opposing Parties Express Commitment to Finalizing Rome-mediated Peace Talks

Portrait previously used by the Rome-based lay Catholic association, Sant’Egidio Catholic community. Credit: Sant’Egidio Catholic community

Representatives of warring parties in South Sudan’s conflict have expressed their commitment to participating in the planned Rome-mediated peace meetings that are expected to put an end to the protracted civil strife.

Rome-based lay Catholic association, Sant’Egidio hosted the July 15-18 meeting that brought together South Sudan’s Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU), the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance-South Sudan United Front/Army (SSOMA SSUF/A) and the SSOMA-Real Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SSOMA Real SPLM).

At the end of the meeting, which was held in the presence of observers from the international community, the opposing parties signed two documents, including the one in which they expressed their commitment to attending other meetings to be held in Rome in three successive months from September this year.

The community says that one of the documents signed by the warrying South Sudanese parties “commits the parties to an agenda of meetings to be held in Rome in September, October and November 2021.”

The meetings, the community of Sant’Egidio notes, will lead, in the hope of the mediators and international observers, to a final peace agreement between the parties in conflict.

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Officials of the lay Catholic community note that during the four days, the parties signed a roadmap for including the Real SPLM and SSUF/A in the Ceasefire & Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring & Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM).

The parties also signed a roadmap for political dialogue on the causes of the ongoing conflict in the 10-year-old country, at the end of which the parties committed to signing a comprehensive agreement.

The first document commits SSOMA to establish a communication contact with the CTSAMVM; to participate in a technical workshop, to be organized by the CTSAMVM and Sant'Egidio with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) from September 2-5.

The document also commits SSOMA to provide a training course for military personnel, who will be employed in the CTSAMVM structures.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Switzerland and Japan, as well as representatives of the European Union.

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Others at the meeting were representatives from IGAD, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), RJMEC, and CTSAMVM.

Those who attended the meeting acknowledged the progress that had been made in the South Sudanese peace talks.

The community has hosted a series of other peace talks aimed at working towards all-inclusive peace in the East-Central African country.

The Catholic lay association has convened meetings in partnership with South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) both in Juba and in Rome in view of facilitating reconciliation and peace in the world’s youngest nation.

The process has yielded some fruits, with opposition parties in South Sudan announcing their intention to recommit to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) signed in December 2017.

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In a joint declaration issued on March 8, representatives of R-TGONU SSOMA agreed to recommit to CoHA, the Rome Declaration and the Rome Resolution, which would constitute the basis for subsequent political dialogue.

The leaders further agreed to “abstain from any form of violence against civilians including sexual and gender-based violence and duly investigate in a timely manner and hold those responsible to account.”

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Advocates of South Sudan (CASS), an entity that seeks to help establish a just and lasting peace in South Sudan, has reiterated the aspirations of the South Sudanese people, which came to the fore in the 2017-2020 National Dialogue that was convened by the country’s President, Salva Kiir.

At the end of the dialogue, participants concluded that South Sudan is a failed state and blamed the crises in the country on the failure of political leadership and the state.

They call on both President Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar to step aside from leadership and politics for failing to show “moral leadership” and political will necessary to break the political deadlock.” 

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“Neither President Kiir nor First Vice President Machar has displayed moral leadership or the political will necessary to break the political deadlock, which they created,” CASS officials say in a brief summary that captures what the people said in the dialogue.

They add, in reference to President Kiir and Dr. Machar, “They have permanent political differences and personal hatred towards one another. Thus, they have created a political deadlock in the country, and have neither the will nor moral leadership to move beyond personal grudges and egos.”

The community of advocates adds, “It is obvious that this government cannot deliver peace, security, or stability which the country desperately needs. We must courageously admit that South Sudan as a state has failed by all measures.”

The civil society group points out the ills affecting South Sudan, including ethnic politics in which certain groups of people have been targeted as well as graft in the management of resources, noting that by 2019, South Sudan was ranked the second most corrupt country in the world. To date that has not improved, CASS officials say.

In an array of demands, the people of South Sudan want immediate focus to be placed on the unification of the army, the establishment of the permanent constitution, preparations for the country’s elections, and the return and resettlement of IDPs and refugees, according to CASS officials.

Concerning the country’s elections, the people want neither President Kiir nor Dr. Machar to take any part in the elections, they say in their latest report.

“Both must leave politics,” CASS officials say in reference to the people’s demands concerning the country’s President and opposition leader.

They add, “None of the four current vice presidents may take part in the coming elections, although they may participate in future elections.”

The people further demand that national elections in the country be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, the African Union, and IGAD to prevent controversy over the results and a risk of relapse to war.