Dr. Benjamin Marial, the spokesperson for the government delegation to the Sant’Egidio mediated talks in Rome, yesterday revealed that talks slated to be held in Nairobi on 18th January between the government of South Sudan and a faction of the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) led by Generals Paul Malong and Pagan Amum have been postponed pending approval from the government of Kenya.

“We were supposed to meet the group of Pagan Amum and Paul Malong in Nairobi from the 18th to the 23rd of this month and this was a direction from the mediators, Community of Sant’Egidio, who came to Juba and they met the president who told them to go ahead with their mediation. Sant’Egidio then proceeded to Kenya and the Kenyan government said they had no objection and that the talks can be held in Kenya,” Dr. Marial said.

“The problem was that Sant’Egidio who are mediating and arranging the talks have not received formal approval from the Kenyan government. So they cannot just go ahead until they receive formal approval from the government of Kenya. So the dates will have to change. The talks are on but the dates will be changed when the formal approval from the government of Kenya comes,” he added.

Dr. Marial told Radio Tamazuj that the Rome talks were progressing well despite the split of SSOMA into two groups.

“The Rome talks are going on very well and as you know the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) is divided into two. There is a section of SSOMA which is led by Gen. Thomas Cirillo and they are four parties together,” Dr. Marial explained. “And then we have the other two parties that have also broken away that are under the parties of Paul Malong and Pagan Amum and Oyay Ajak, the former Chief of General Staff and Dr. Cirino Hiteng and the rest of them.”

He said that as a government delegation, they agreed with the direction of President Kiir that they hold talks with SSOMA even if they are divided and that they have been meeting both groups separately.

According to Dr. Marial, “As for the Rome group and Thomas Cirillo, we had agreed in our last meeting in December in Rome that their generals would come here to Juba and join the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM), so that they can locate and be involved with the cantonment of their groups, with the rest of the government generals and also for monitoring and verification because of the issue of violations.”

He said they expect the generals of Thomas Cirillo to go to Juba in the coming days so that they become part of CTSAMVM as required by the revitalized peace agreement.  

“We will also meet the Thomas Cirillo group to discuss the last part of things, that is the root causes of conflict. We are also going to discuss with the Pagan and Malong group the root causes of conflict because the military part is clear,” According to Dr. Marial. “So that is the situation. The delay, therefore, is not from the government delegation. The approval from the Kenyan government has not yet arrived.”

He said that the ceasefire is holding, except for a few violations, but that the government delegation has agreed with SSOMA that the cessation of hostilities must be respected.

“That is why we are pushing Gen. Thomas to bring his generals so that they become part of monitoring and identifying who is violating and shooting people on the roads. This is so that we can both be accountable, side-by-side,” Dr. Marial said. “And that is the position of the Rome talks as inspired by His Holiness Pope Francis together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt RevDrMartin Fair. So that is where we are.”