South Sudan’s government and holdout opposition groups on Monday announced that political talks will resume in Rome, Italy, next week.
Aimed at working towards all-inclusive peace in the world’s youngest country, the peace talks are being mediated by the Rome-based lay Catholic association, Sant’Egidio.
In November last year, the Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) in Juba suspended the talks with the Non-Signatories South Sudanese Opposition Group (NSSSOG) after accusing the opposition of lacking commitment and preparing for war.
However, President Salva Kiir renewed his commitment to the talks with the opposition group after Pope Francis’s visit to Juba last month.
Negotiations between both sides began in 2019 but have failed to stop violence in some parts of the country, despite a ceasefire signed in January 2020.
The President’s press secretary, Lily Adhieu Martin Manyiel, said that the government delegation had received an invitation for the talks in Rome next week.
“Yes, the talks will take place between 20-26 March and the government side has been invited,” said Adhieu.
“They are needed before 20 March, and the meeting will start on 20th. Usually, there is a group that is selected from the government side that used to go for the talks headed by Dr. Marial Benjamin [Minister of Presidential Affairs],” she added.
For his part, the leader of the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A), Gen. Paul Malong Awan, confirmed that the holdout opposition group had received an invitation to resume peace negotiations with the transitional government.
“We have been invited to the talks. The agendas 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,” said Gen. Malong.
Malong’s SSUF/A is a founding member of the Non-Signatories South Sudanese Opposition Group (NSSSOG), which brings together some of the opposition parties that had declined to be part of the revitalised peace agreement that was signed in September 2018.