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Kiir pulls out of Rome talks with hold-out opposition groups

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Representatives of South Sudan government and SSOMA factions at a meeting mediated by the Sant’Egidio community in Rome, July 17, 2021 (courtesy photo)

August 31, 2021 (JUBA)- South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has halted his government’s participation in the Rome talks with the South Sudanese Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA), dashing any prospects for peace in a country ruined by civil wars and rampant corruption.

“We have decided to pause the ongoing Sant’Egidio led Rome Peace initiative. Our pursuit of an inclusive peace should never be taken for weakness and used as a window to kill the innocent”, he said at the inauguration of the first session of parliament on Monday.

Kiir specifically singled out the National Salvation Front (NAS) headed by General Thomas Cirilo Swaka and set conditions for his government’s resumption of the talks.

He held the hold-out group responsible for attacks on the Juba-Nimule highway on August 16, 2021 in which scores of people, including two catholic nuns, were killed.

None of the groups, however, claimed responsibility for the recent attacks.

"Talks with SSOMA will only resume after they cease killing the innocent people and show their commitment to documents they have signed in Rome. It is only when they meet these conditions that genuine dialogue will resume,” said Kiir.

The South Sudanese leader wondered why NAS continues to target civilians along the main roads, despite their commitment to the cessation of hostilities agreement.

“We have signed with Rome Declaration and Rome Resolutions with SSOMA and the re-commitment to Cessation of Hostilities in December 2017 and Declaration of Principles. The goal of signing these documents was to stop fighting and save innocent lives. These were our commitment to inclusivity”, he told legislators.

Kiir said documents signed by the group suspected to have carried out the attack with the government were also part of confidence-building aimed at achieving lasting peace in the country.

“Now that SSOMA is specifically the National Salvation Front elements continue to violate this commitment,” he stressed.

Government signed a peace deal with NAS and other holdout opposition groups in January 2020.

(ST)

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