National, News

Malong skeptical about Juba’s commitment to Rome talks

By William Madouk

South Sudan’s Council of Ministries has delegated a team to engage a Non-signatory South Sudan Opposition Groups (NSSSOG) on the Rome peace talks.

Minister of Information, Michael Makuei told the media after council of minister meeting on Friday that the cabinet has delegated a mediation team to engage with the holdout group.

“The report was appreciated, and the delegation that went from here (South Sudan) was given the go-ahead to continue negotiating with the non-signatories,” Makuei told reporters on Friday.

This came after the head of the delegation to the Rome peace talks, Dr. Barnaba Marial, who is also the minister for presidential affairs, briefed the cabinet on the progress of the Rome peace talks.

Makuei, who is also the government spokesperson, said Marial and the holdout groups were given time to access and go back for the talks.

“After consultation with the parties, they decided to put off the meeting until further notice, when the parties will be in a position to agree with the agenda, they will continue with peace talks,” he added.

Reacting to the matter, Garang Malual, spokesperson of the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) allied to Paul Malong, expressed skepticism about the government’s commitment to peace talks.

“Last month, we were supposed to go back to Rome for talks, but the government refused to attend. So, this time, how serious is they with the peace talks?” Malual questioned.

In March, the parties to the Rome peace accord did not agree on the way forward, whereas the government wants to start from where talks stopped, the opposition wants the opposite.

Malual explained that talks were earlier called off as disagreement emerged between the parties over the agenda, and the government’s mediation team went to Juba for consultation but never returned.

“Last time the meeting was called off because of the disagreement between the parties’ roundtable and the Rome initiative, the government delegation asked the mediators for consultation in Juba,” he noted.

“But up to now they haven’t informed the mediators on what the way forward is,” he added.

No.1 The Citizen established that a standoff could linger over the Rome peace talks should the government and holdout groups resume talks without solving the previous resolution confusion on the agenda.

In November 2022, the government suspended the peace talks with the group after accusing the opposition of lacking commitment to peace negotiations and preparing for war.

Later on, President Salva Kiir Mayardit renewed his commitment to the peace process with the opposition after Pope Francis’s visit to the capital, Juba, in February.

Negotiations between both sides began in 2019 but have failed to end violence in some parts of the country, despite a ceasefire signed in January 2020.

The NSSSOG brings together some of the opposition parties that had declined to be part of the revitalized peace agreement, signed in September 2018.


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