June 24, 2014 (JUBA) – A group of former South Sudanese political detainees have protested against the adjournment of peace talks, describing the decision as unpatriotic.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 aimed at resolving conflict in the country peacefully (Photo: Reuters)
In a release extended to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday the former detainees – all of whom were senior members of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – accused the rival parties to the country’s armed conflict of exhibiting a lack of seriousness.
They said the government’s decision to join a boycott of the peace talks on the grounds that they could not continue the talks without the participation of the main rival faction was illogical.
The decision dashes hopes for peace in the fractured country and condemns South Sudanese people to ongoing suffering, the group said.
“The lack of seriousness in the face of the immense suffering facing their people as a result of the ongoing conflict will result in increased suffering, feelings of hopelessness and total despair,” the group said in the statement.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African regional bloc mediating negotiations, announced in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday that talks would be indefinitely adjourned to allow for further consultations.
Talks opened prematurely on Friday without the participation of the rebel faction led by former vice-president Riek Machar, who boycotted the talks, claiming the selection process for other stakeholders, including civil society organisations and faith-based groups, was unfair and lacked transparency.
The former detainees said they had been extremely disheartened by the position taken by the two rival parties.
“The fact that they would choose to ignore the yearning of our people for peace and abuse the good will and desire of the region and the international community to take their country out of the conflict and suffering is deplorable and unpatriotic,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the rebel SPLM in Opposition has criticised IGAD’s decision to adjourn talks, saying direct talks between the two parties could have continued while the matters around the stakeholder selection process were addressed.
Conflict has raged in South Sudan since mid-December last year amid escalating political tensions within the ruling SPLM.
The former senior SPLM officials were detained in connection to an alleged coup plot to overthrow the government, which the government claimed sparked the violence.
Seven detainees were subsequently released and travelled to Kenya to take part in the stalled peace process, while the remaining four were later freed in April after the government dropped treason charges against them.
The violence has pitted government troops loyal to president Kiir against rebel forces aligned with Machar, comprising largely of dissident soldiers and ethnic militia.
Peace talks have been marred by slow progress and ongoing setbacks, with a ceasefire agreement signed between the rival sides failing to halt violence on the ground.