July 28, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan on Monday expressed readiness to resume peace negotiations with the rebel faction of the SPLM under the leadership of the former vice-president, Riek Machar, downplaying the likely implications of recent military engagement in Upper Nile and Jonglei states.
- South Sudan’s ex-minister for foreign affairs, Barnaba Marial Benjamin (ST)
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) announced last week the resumption of peace talks on 30 July, one month after a sudden decision by the mediators to suspend the talks as the rebels protested the “unfair” selection of civil society representatives.
“The government has never left the venue of negotiations. It is the rebels that raised the demands which led the mediation team to go for consultations,” South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told Sudan Tribune on Monday.
Benjamin said the government delegation has the full mandate of the government to negotiate a comprehensive and an inclusive agreement with the participation of the other stakeholders as it was agreed last June.
“The rebels are now calling for the exclusion of the former detainees, whose participation in the past was one of the demands and conditions they were raising, but when they were released and refused to join them, they (rebels) felt betrayed by their own friends and now want the talks to be limited,” the minister said.
The minister went to emphasise that his government was initially opposed to their inclusion in the peace process but conceded and accepted the demand of the rebels for the sake of peace in the country.
“This was the initial position of the government but they opposed it and agreement which include them as part of the stakeholders was signed and we as the government accepted,” Benjamin told Sudan Tribune in an exclusive interview.
Following the suspension of the talks, the group of former political detainees protested against the adjournment and accused the rival parties of lack of seriousness.
The former senior members of the ruling party stressed that the delay of talks and the absence of quick resolution to the conflict will “result in increased suffering, feelings of hopelessness and total despair,”
Also, 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.