Suspension of South Sudan’s Peace Talks Not Closure of “door for peace”: Catholic Nun

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The recent suspension of South Sudanese government’s participation in the Rome peace talks does not mean that the “door for peace” in the East-Central African nation is permanently closed, a Catholic Missionary Nun in the country has said. 

In an interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Elena Balatti also criticized the government’s decision to suspend participation in the peace talks and described the move as a blow to the negotiations”.

In a November 24 Sudan Tribune report, South Sudan’s government announced the “suspension of its participation in the Rome peace talks,” accusing the Non-Signatories South Sudanese Opposition Groups (NSSSOG) of “lacking commitment.”

In a letter addressed to the Secretary General of Sant’Egidio Community, the Rome-based lay Catholic association dedicated to the provision of social services and arbitrating conflicts, South Sudan’s Presidential Affairs Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin accused some opposition groups of preparing for war.

“While we have been preparing to engage in serious dialogue with the non-signatory South Sudan opposition groups to bring lasting peace to the people of South Sudan, it has come to our attention that this group is using these talks to buy time as they prepare for war,” the South Sudanese government official has been quoted as saying.


In the December 2 interview with ACI Africa Friday, Sr. Balatti said despite the South Sudan’s government move, “The door for peace is not closed forever; it will be opened for talks to continue.”

“The move is a blow to the negotiation because it shows the peace process is not going on in the best way,” the member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS) lamented.

She saw hope in the reported plans for Sant’Egidio leadership to visit the South Sudanese leadership, saying, “The visit by the Community of Sant'egidio to meet the government gives hope that the peace talk will continue.”

In a November 29 report by Radio Tamazuj, Paolo Impagliazzo, the Secretary-General of the Community of Sant'Egidio, says “they will not abandon the mediation process”.

He expresses the desire to meet the South Sudanese government in the capital Juba “to understand more about the reasons that led to the suspension of the talks.”

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In the December 2 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Balatti called on the government “to always look for what unites us but not something that can cause division.”

“Let the government have a major responsibility to look for what will unite them with the non-signatory groups and all the parties,” she said, and added, “We pray for the government’s genuine recommitment to the Rome peace talks to bring lasting peace and stability to the people of South Sudan.”

The Italian-born Catholic Missionary Nun who coordinates the department of Integral Human Development (Caritas) in South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese went on to reflect on the cases of violence recorded in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State.

Members of the African Diplomatic Corps and the international community in Africa’s youngest nation have expressed deep concern over the escalating violence between communities in Upper Nile State and the northern parts of Jonglei State.

“The ongoing fighting has caused massive displacement of civilians and untold sufferings for the people looking for shelter in camps,” the Catholic Missionary Nun who started her missionary service in Sudan in 1994 said. 


The whereabouts of “some people we know personally” remain unknown, she further said, and added, “Displacing civilians from their places through violence is an evil act.”

Sr. Balatti advocated for exposure, saying in reference to persons behind displacement of people, “Those who commit these acts should be denounced and condemned in the strongest possible way.”

“Thousands of the displaced persons are in dire need of humanitarian assistance,” she said, adding that Caritas Malakal has only managed to facilitate “small contributions through the support of our partners like Caritas South Sudan, CAFOD, Trocaire, and Caritas Austria to help the people in need.”

She further called on those behind the violence “to look for peaceful solutions to their grievances.”

“They have to look for proper channels to resolve issues other than violence,” the Catholic Missionary Nun told ACI Africa during the December 2 interview. 

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She added, “As Caritas Malakal, we are trying to see in terms of food and non-food items to support the IDPs with humanitarian aid.