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S. Sudan opposition parties agree to participate jointly in peace talks

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

March 15, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Four exiled South Sudan opposition political parties have agreed to jointly take part in peace talks as a separate bloc.

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Exiled South Sudan opposition parties have agreed to take part in peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa aimed at ending hostilities in the country (Photo: AFP/Carl De Souza)

Leaders of the four political parties recently met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where they agreed to form an umbrella organisation under the leadership of General Biel Torkech Rambang, chairman of the South Sudan United Democratic Alliance (SSUDA), and deputised by Yien Tut Bhok.

The other three opposition political organisations taking part are the National Revolutionary Democratic Party/Front (NRDP/F), Revolutionary Alliance for South Sudan (RASS) and the South Sudan Republican Party (SSRP).

Rambang told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that members of the body are now holding consultations to decide on a structure.

SSUDA said the bloc’s aim was to find a peaceful solution to current conflict in the country, which has pitted forces loyal to the Salva Kiir-led ruling party (SPLM) and those aligned with former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar.

Rambang described peace talks, which are being mediated by East African bloc, the Intergovermental Authority on Development (IGAD as the only viable forum for achieving a peaceful resolution to the three-month-old crisis, in which at least 20,000 have died.

“As a result, all parties must be included at the talks to amicably solve the problem once and for all, [and] to avoid continuation of the war in a different form,” said Rambang.

The opposition official accused both Kiir and Machar of being the major drivers of division within the SPLM leadership, accusing them of failing to arrest conflict in the young nation.

Opposition leaders claims Kiir and Machar share responsibility for failures within the SPLM, which they say has been characterised by corruption, nepotism, tribalism, poor governance and human right abuses.

They further demanded the SPLM failure and corruption must be tabled
at the current IGAD brokered peace talks.

Rambang said it was the position of the four political groups that both president Kiir and Machar should step aside in favour of an interim government until democratic elections in 2015, which they would both be free to contest.

“As for the interim, they need to give the people a chance by stepping aside,” he said.

Although yet to make final decision, IGAD has promised the parties that they will be able to participate when the next round of talks resumes on 20 March.

Taking part in negotiations are rebel and government representatives, as well as a group of senior SPLM figures who were arrested connection to an alleged coup plot masterminded by Machar.

Rebels have denied the existence of a plot to overthrow the government, although Machar remains in control of the defected army units and armed civilians who are fighting the South Sudanese army (SPLA).

Fighting in South Sudan has continued despite the signing of a ceasefire deal on 23 January aimed at ending hostilities, withboth sides accusing each other of violating the terms of the agreement.