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Top SSOMA officials, barred from Rome peace talks

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Peace talks have resumed in Rome between the government and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance.

The direct talks restarted on Friday in the Italian capital, Rome after a long halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) and the government signed the Rome Declaration in January to recommit to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

According to Nyamilepedia Report seen by NCMP, at least two top officials of the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance(SSOMA) that include the former Secretary General of the ruling party, Cde. Pagan Amum Okiech, and the Former Chief of Staff of the SPLA, Gen. Paul Malong Awan, have been barred from attending the South Sudan peace talks in the Italian capital, Rome.

According to the Secretary General of SSOMA, Cde. Deng Vanang, the leader of the Real-SPLM, Cde. Pagan Amum, and the leader of South Sudan United Front, Gen. Paul Malong Awan, were locked out of the venue by the SSOMA Leadership Council because of internal chaos within the alliance.

“This session saw Comrade Pagan Amum Okiech and General Paul Malong Awan’s movements of Real-SPLM and SSUF/A being respectively locked out of the venue by SSOMA’s Leadership Council, because they are no longer members of SSOMA” Cde. Deng Vanang said in a briefing circulated to the main local media houses.

While Gen. Malong is being suspended from the alliance because of internal chaos within his armed opposition SSUF/A, Pagan is being punished for refusing to sign a charter that terminates Malong’s party from SSOMA.

“[They are being terminated] for the following two reasons: SSUFA being already suspended from membership and Real-SPLM’s persistent refusal to sign the newly adopted charter which guides both internal and external operations of the alliance in solidarity with Malong’s SSUFA.” Deng Vanang explains to media.

To add extra confusion during the first session, the Minister of Presidential Affair, Nhial Deng Nhial, kept acknowledging the two officials that were not in attendance.

“Nhial Deng Nhial as the head of the R-ARCISS government delegation made a deliberate mistake of acknowledging the presence of Pagan and Malong in the meeting Hall” Deng Vanang continued.

According to SSOMA leadership council, Hon. Nhial Deng Nhial was trying “to cover up the isolation of the duo and misinform the public on the realities taking place in Rome.”

Speaking to Nyamilepedia, SSOMA Leadership acknowledged that the government delegation will try to exploit the internal division within SSOMA and may use the division to weaken to the talks to their advantage.

South Sudan government delegation which is composed of members of SPLM-Kiir and a few members from SPLM-Machar demands that SSOMA leadership should compromise to their plan of “incorporation”, however, the divided SSOMA wants the root causes of the conflict discussed but IGAD and R-JMEC is not ready for that path.

It remains to be seen if SSOMA’s pre-conditions would be tabled; however, most of SSOMA leadership such as Thomas Cirilo, a former Deputy Chief of Staff of the SPLA under Paul Malong, and Paul Malong himself defected recently after the first phase of the conflict failed, which would classify them in the same chategory as that of President Salva Kiir if the root causes were to be addressed.

The talks will continue until Monday, October 12, with hopes that these parties will strike a breakthrough that will bolster the cessation of hostilities agreements that these parties, and others, signed between December 2017 and January 2020.

Despite attempts to block him from participating in the talks, Gen. Paul Malong has travelled to the Italian capital where he is currently waiting for a second chance to be allowed to enter the talks.

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