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Opposition alliance sceptical ahead of meeting with IGAD on peace in South Sudan

Ismail Wais, IGAD Special Envoy to South Sudan, briefs the Security Council on 27 February 2018 (UN Photo)
MARCH 6, 2019 (JUBA) - The South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) Wednesday said that the IGAD block which mediates the peace process has predetermined the outcome of a meeting they would hold with its special envoy next Friday.

SSNDA Spokesperson Kwaje Lasu, however, reiterated their belief in the need for lasting peace to address the genuine issues that prevent them from joining the peace agreement through a true dialogue.

In a meeting held on 25 February, the IGAD Special Envoy Ismail Wais and the SSNDA leader Thomas Cirilo agreed to convene another meeting with the alliance leaders to discuss the way forward as they had already handed over a position paper on why they reject the revitalized pact.

In an invitation letter addressed to Cirilo on 1 March seen by Sudan Tribune, Wais said the meeting would take place on Friday 8 March. In addition, he underscored that the IGAD does not recognize the new entity, SSNDA, established after the signing of the agreement.

The mediation considers him "as one of the leaders of the nonĀ­ signatory groups" but not as the leader of the opposition alliance.

Also, with regard to the upcoming meeting of 8 Marche, the special envoy was keen to underline that "the purpose of the meeting is to discuss substantive issues regarding the possibility and modalities of you rejoining the R-ARCSS and the peace process," brushing aside their demand to open the revitalized agreement for negotiations.

Asked to comment on the mediation’s position, Kwaje told Sudan Tribune they were surprised when they received his letter which "is completely contradicting everything we have been expected".

He pointed they have put in writing their demands and proposed the way forward to settle the conflict.

"If we are going with that type of invitation there is no hopeful outcome," he said.

"The outcome has been predetermined. The line has been drawn. We will not be pushed to accept this agreement. We will not be part of this agreement until the root causes have been addressed and until negotiations have been opened," he stressed.

SSNDA forces call for a federal system of government in South Sudan and to implement it during the transitional period. They say it is needed to liberate the country from oppression and exploitation on an ethnic basis.

UNILATERAL CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES

In his letter to the holdout groups, the special envoy urged them to issue a unilateral declaration of cessation of hostilities, pointing that "no party can claim adherence to CoHA without being bound by R-ARCSS".

In response to this demand, the SSNDA official said that they are, de facto, committed to a unilateral ceasefire because they did not attack the government positions.

"We must be very clear on this respect, Juba is the one that is attacking us and we are responding in self-defence," he said.

"We hold the IGAD accountable for giving Juba blank cheque to attack us and of course we will not sit on our hands we would always protect ourselves and our people in the (area we control)," he further said.

The SSNDA includes all the groups of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance that refused to sign the revitalized peace agreement of 12 September 2018.

(ST)