South Sudan government, rebel groups sign pact to achieve lasting peace

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South Sudan’s government and the opposition groups have inch closely to towards lasting peace deal as parties involved in the Nairobi Mediation process made the first positive step when they signed the Declaration of Commitment to the outcome on Thursday in Nairobi Known as the Tumaini (Hope) Initiative.

The government and two opposition groups participating in the process committed themselves to whatever outcome that would be agreed upon by the participants.

Tumaini Initiative also incorporates all the previous agreements that had been signed since 2020 when the negotiations between the government of President Salva Kiir were initiated by the Sant’ Egidio Catholic Community in Rome Italy. It marked the beginning of mediation proper.

Later Thursday evening, President Ruto met with foreign envoys who are Friends of South Sudan at State House Nairobi, where he held talks with South Sudan donor groups in the company of the Chief mediator.

Among them, British High Commissioner Neil Wigan, ambassador Meg Whitman (US), Zhou Pingjan (china), Khalid Abdullahi Al Salma (Saudi Arabia), Gunner Andreas Holm (Norway), Sebastian Groth (Germany), Roberto Natali (Italy), Henriette Geiger (EU), Mohammed Bin Mutair Al-Enazi (Qatar) and Salim Ibrahim Naqbi (UAE).

Dr Ruto lauded the invaluable contributions of diplomats towards restoring peace and stability in the country.

“We are looking forward to the success of the Tumaini Initiative, which promises to empower South Sudanese to build a prosperous future for their country and region,” he said.

The declaration—which coincided with the 41st anniversary of the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM)—was signed by the transitional government of national unity (TGoNU), Real-SPLM led by Pagan Amum and South Sudan United Front (SSUF) led by former Army Chief Paul Malong.

Others who signed the declaration as supportive participants included the civil society, women, youth, academia and religious groups, and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) that acted as the guarantor. 

As the first step to the talks that had been held behind the scenes since it was launched on May 9, the parties had given their positions on various issues. Each party will forward two members each to the secretariat to thrash out the outstanding issues by midday Friday.

Chief Mediator, Rt army commander and Lt Gen Lazurus Sumbeiywo said that the declaration marked the beginning of proper negotiations since the mediation to discuss the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan and trigger the capacity of the people of South Sudan to participate in their development, including farming.

“There can never be an opportunity for the parties to commit themselves to the next phase of the South Sudan peace process, since the process is inclusive. It is not about if, but when because peace will come,” said Mr Sumbeiywo.

He however debunked the issue of timelines as some observers had hoped that the mediation should be concluded in time to allow the country to prepare for the December 2024 elections minus conflicts.

“There are no timelines because our aim is not elections. Our mission is to stop the violence in South Sudan,” Gen Sumbeiwyo told The East African on the sidelines of the meeting at Nairobi’s Emara Ole Sereni Hotel.

Other members of the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (Ssoma)—that did not sign the 2018 peace agreement—leading among them the National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Gen Thomas Cirillo, and the National Democratic Movement Patriotic Front (NDM-PF) led by Emmanuel Ajawin, have boycotted the Nairobi Mediation.

With only two out of about five members of Ssoma participating, Mr Sumbeiywo said that the mediation was forced to deal with individual groups rather than an umbrella body. Still, some groups such as SPLM-Kitguang have expressed interest in joining. 

Mr Amum, who spoke on behalf of the opposition groups and non-signatories, said those opposition members participating in the talks have committed themselves to rescue the country and giving hope to the suffering people of South Sudan. 

“We in the opposition pledge our full commitment to work in collaboration with the government delegation to bring peace to our people without discrimination,” said Mr Amum.

Ssoma and Juba have been in peace talks known as the Rome Initiative since 2020 till March 2023 when the talks broke down.

In December 2023, Kiir requested Ruto to take over the mediation from the community of Sant’egidio in Rome complaining that the talks had taken long in Rome’s hands without resolution. 

In February, President Ruto accepted after consulting with the community of Sant’egidio in Rome.

Source: The East African

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