Talks 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 yet again after government delegates tested positive for Covid-19.

The talks slated for 2nd February 2021 in Rome were to take place in Nairobi, Kenya from the 18th to the 23rd of January but the talks mediators, the Community of Sant’Egidio, did not receive formal approval from the Kenyan government.  

Dr. Benjamin Marial, the spokesperson for the government delegation to the talks told Radio Tamazuj today that the postponement is purely due to health matters. 

“It has been postponed and a new date is being set. It was postponed because of some health reasons. They had to test all the members of the delegation so that they certify everybody is free. That was the reason. Otherwise, the talks are not endangered in any way. So, when we have a new date and after testing and quarantine, we can go,” he said.

Marial confirmed that members of his delegation tested positive for Covid-19 and have to adhere to the health protocols including quarantine and retests until they are certified for travel.

“Well, there could be people positive but that is the matter of health authority, not a political thing. So, they have to do again a retest in about 14 days,” he added.

A statement obtained by Radio Tamazuj from the office of and signed by the minister of Presidential Affairs, Nhial Deng Nhial to the mediation team said last-minute development beyond their control demanded that the talks are stalled further.

“I am accordingly requesting the postponement of the talks till further notice. We shall of course endeavor to propose a new date for the talks as soon as circumstances prompting our request for the postponement have abated,” the statement reads in part.

The government delegation was to leave Juba on Saturday for talks with the SSUF/A of Malong and the Real SPLM of Pagan Amum.

“We were meant to travel yesterday and be there today and then last minute those of the government delegation said that the delegates were found with Covid so the meeting has been postponed until further notice,” the acting spokesperson for SSUF Nyamach Nyang Chol told Radio Tamazuj today. “We were ready our Corona tests were all negative…so the last-minute information, Sant’Egidio informed us on Saturday night that the meeting cannot proceed because the delegates of the government are COVID-19 positive.”

According to her the Real SPLM and SSUF had a total of 12 delegates.

SSOMA split over differences in October last year after the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) of Thomas Cirillo, suspended the membership of Malong’s SSUF from SSOMA. Pagan Amum, head of the Real Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (R-SPLM) and member of the SSOMA leadership council, rejected Malong’s suspension saying the move violates the regulations of the alliance. 

Sant’Egidio has maintained that they will pursue, together with the international community, its commitment to the search for an inclusive and lasting peace for South Sudan.