Experts welcome resumption of “Rome Talks” with skepticism

By Aweye Teddy Onam

Political analysts and civil society activists have welcomed the return to Rome peace talk of the South Sudan government with non-signatory parties and holdout opposition groups saying the process is necessary to silence the guns as well as end the sufferings of South Sudanese, but they remain doubtful on the positive outcome of the anticipated talks.

The Rome peace process was initiated by the Sant’Egidio catholic community, and the negotiations started in 2019 between the government, and holdout groups with the ceasefire agreement reached in 2020. But that did not stop the violence or conflicts from raging in the country.

Lily Adhieu Martin Manyiel, press secretary in the office of the president confirmed to No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper that the government delegation has received the invitation, and the peace talk will start at the end of this month.

“Yes the talk will start on the 20th to the 25th of March 2023”, Lily confirmed in an interview with this paper.

Welcomed talks

Meanwhile, James Boboya, a policy and political analyst, at the Institute of Social Policy and Research said the resumption of the Rome talks is good news for South Sudan and its international partners.

“Any discussion about peace in South Sudan is good news to every South Sudanese and good news to the international community, [and] regional aspect. And any discussion of the Rome peace talk is something that many of the South Sudanese citizens appear to be happy about and this has been long overdue”, said Boboya.

“People are suffering in South Sudan… to silence the guns, the long peace initiative becomes more valuable to that process”, he added.

Pope Francis in 2019, hosted a religious retreat where he kissed the feet of President Kiir, First Vice President Riek Machar, and Vice President Rebeca Nyandenf De Mabior. And he reminded them of unity, reconciliation, and peace in South Sudan.

Edmund Yakani, the Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, has also welcomed the move but urged the parties to the Rome peace talk to adhere to political will and produce good outcomes from the talks.

“I welcome the resumption and I wish that those who will be engaged in the Rome peace talk should demonstrate political maturity. They should return [with] tangible results because we are tried for the last 2 to 3 years. They are always going there and they produce no result” Yakani told No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper.

In 2022, president Kiir suspended government participation in the Rome peace talks and accused the holdout groups of buying time while preparing to launch a military offensive against the government.

The president decided to suspend talks came in the wake of an ambush in 2021 that took place along the Juba-Nimule highway which claimed the lives of two catholic nuns Regina Roba, and Mary Abbud when they were returning from Loa catholic Parish upon the celebration of the 100th church’s anniversary.

However, the government lifted the suspension and pronounced the resumption of the Rome peace talks amid the visit of Pope Francis in February earlier this year, where he renewed calls for peace and reconciliation among South Sudanese.

The Pope met with South Sudanese government leaders, religious leaders, and Internally Displaced Persons and preached the message of peace.

Shadowed outcome

Meanwhile, the policy expert James Boboya is sceptical of the Rome peace result saying the process should be well handled and inclusive in order to be legitimate.

“I am not optimistic when it comes to the peace outcome….so what needs to happen is that such peace processes need to be well discussed, it must be inclusive, must be participatory, [and] consultative to yield legitimacy from both sides, the government and the [holdout] groups,” he said.

Also, activist Edmund Yakani observed that the lack of political will by the parties risks the peace talks from getting any breakthrough and that is unacceptable.

“Obviously if they fail to demonstrate political maturity there will be no breakthrough because lack of will is a sign of lack of political maturity and turn [the] peace talk as a political tourism which we don’t want” he echoed.

According to a media report, South Sudan United Front led by Gen. Paul Malong Awan has also received an invitation to participate in the resumption of the Rome peace talk.

“We have been invited to the talks. The agenda of the talks are with the government side. So we will listen to them first because we already have our agenda. All of us in the opposition coalition will attend the talks,” Gen. Paul Malong was quoted as saying by Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday.

The parties to the Rome peace talk are the National Salvation Front led by Thomas Cirilo, the Real SPLM of Pagan Amum, and the South Sudan United Front led by Gen. Paul Malong Awan. 

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