National, News

Thomas Cirilo mute as Nairobi talks begin

By William Madouk


All eyes are fixed on Nairobi as peace talks between the government and the Non-Signatory South Sudan Opposition Group (NSSOG) are set to commence.

However, the leader of the National Salvation Front (NAS), General Thomas Cirilo, who had initially expressed reservations about the Nairobi initiative, has maintained a tight-lipped stance, leaving room for speculation regarding his potential participation.

On Tuesday, the government dispatched a high-level delegation led by Amb. Albino Mathem to Nairobi, Kenya, ahead of the pivotal peace talks with the holdout groups.

Upon arrival, the delegation was received by Mr. Charles Keter, Ruto’s presidential advisor on the Great Lakes region.

Speaking to the state-owned SSBC TV, the minister of information, Michael Makuei Lueth, who is also a rapporteur, reiterated that the move demonstrates the government’s effort in the search for peace.

“The government’s objectives align closely with the aspirations of the South Sudanese people, who have long yearned for enduring peace and stability,” SSBC quoted Makuei as saying.

In an interview with No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper, the spokesperson of Gen. Paul Malong Awan’s South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) Mr. Garang Malual Deng, said peace talks will resume next week.

“The real day of the talks, which were communicated to us before, is on the 10th of this month,” Malual disclosed.

According to him, the agenda of the meeting was not yet unveiled to them by the mediators, adding that the talks were supposed to begin where the Rome peace initiative stopped.

“The talk is supposed to begin where we stopped last time in the Rome peace talk initiative,” he noted.

Mr. Malual confirmed their readiness and that of the Real SPLM, allied to Pagan Amum, to partake in the Nairobi talks.

However, Awan’s mouthpiece cast doubt on Thomas Cirilo’s participation, citing that none of his representatives were present.

“I doubt; up to now we are not seeing anyone from their group [NAS under Thomas Cirilo], but almost all these groups, like Real SPLM, have their delegate,” Malual noted.

The talks between the unity government and holdout groups were shifted from Rome, Italy, in January to be under the mediation of the Kenyan government.

The holdout groups led by Paul Malong Awan and Pagan Amum accepted President Ruto’s mediation efforts.

Meanwhile, the NAS under Gen. Cirilo and the National Democratic Movement-Patriotic Front, allied to Emmanuel Ajwain, rejected the Nairobi initiative, citing that it’s not safe and they weren’t consulted either.

Assurance to citizens

The spokesperson of the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A), Garang Malual Deng, promised citizens ‘genuine’ peace and breakthroughs in the forthcoming Nairobi peace talks.

“The simple message is that we all need peace. We are telling our people to pray for us while we are here to bring peace to the country. That’s what we all want—we need peace,” he stressed.

“On our side, as the spokesperson of the SSUF/A, I am telling the citizens to expect real peace from our side—we have come here with good intentions, and we are here for real peace,” he expressed their position.

The holdout groups previously known as SSOMA, which now call themselves non-signatories, comprise the Real SPLM led by Pagan Amum, the National Salvation Front (NAS) of Thomas Cirilo, the South Sudan United Front (SSUF/A) led by Paul Malong, and the National Democratic Movement-Patriotic Front (NDM-PF) of Emmanuel Ajawin.

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