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S. Sudan dialogue body urges release of political prisoners

November 26, 2017 (JUBA) – Members of South Sudan’s national dialogue committee have urged President Salva Kiir to release political prisoners to encourage reconciliation and forgiveness.

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President Salva Kiir adresses a joint press conference on 9 July 2016 (Reuters Photo)

South Sudan has released about 30 political prisoners since Kiir declared amnesty in May to facilitate the national dialogue process, officials say.

“The steering committee is engaging the government to release all political prisoners, open up spaces for free media and freedom of speech and create an atmosphere conducive for a comprehensive national dialogue,” reads the committee’s statement issued Sunday.

Efforts, it said, are also underway to engage the Juba government to honor the unilateral ceasefire declared by the president and which has had a positive impact in the country, but appealed to the armed opposition to reciprocate and declare a unilateral ceasefire.

The committee, formed by the president in May, is reportedly engaging the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the parties involved in the South Sudan conflict to negotiate a permanent ceasefire, deemed necessary for a successful dialogue.

In recent months, however, members of the national dialogue committee have visited diplomatic missions to engage the IGAD countries, IGAD special envoy to South Sudan, the African Union, United Nations, the Troika countries [Britain, United States and Norway] and the European Union to support the dialogue process.

“Initially, there was a lot of hesitation to support the national dialogue, but the progress made thus far by the steering committee has proved any doubt that it is an independent body that is determined to reach out to all South Sudanese and is willing to for an inclusive, credible and impactful dialogue,” further reads the statement.

It added, “This has enabled a steady support for the national dialogue by the region and the international community”.

Officially launched in May, the national dialogue initiative is both a forum and process through which the people South Sudan shall gather to redefine the basis of their unity as it relates to nationhood, redefine citizenship and belonging, as well as restructure the state for national inclusion.

The South Sudanese conflict, which broke out in December 2013, has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over two million civilians.