Rome talks: The rejection of 4 major proposals, a signal that the South Sudan gov’t is not serious in attaining peace via the discussions.
General Thomas Cirillo, the commander of the National Salvation Front (NAS), explained four key points that are a source of concern, despite signing a cease-fire agreement with the government under the auspices of the Rome Initiative.
NAS, under the umbrella of the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), has been having discussions with the Juba administration mediated by the Community of Sant’Egidio under the Rome Initiative for about two years now.
The parties signed the Rome Declaration to end hostilities and truce, but skirmishes have occasionally flared again, particularly in regions of Central Equatoria State.
General Cirillo mentioned that a statement of principles had already been signed, according to a Radio Tamazuj report seen by NCMP, but the government rejected four key items, signaling that the latter is not serious about achieving peace through talks.
“We did not agree on the subject of boundary delineation. NAS and its other partners (in SSOMA) suggested that the delineation of the boundary should be per the limits of 1/1/1956, but the administration in Juba rejected and claimed that certain tribes in the nation do not accept these borders,” Gen. Cirillo added. “This illustrates that the government exploits the tribes to steal the lands of others according to their interests. NAS rejected the notion since the 1956 boundaries are defined in the Naivasha Agreement (of the CPA) and other agreements.”
He noted that the second source of contention is the characterization of the conflict in South Sudan.
“NAS and its supporters described the current battle as a tribal-political war but the government in Juba rejected and declared it was a political war. We rejected the premise and emphasized that it is a tribal-political war,” the NAS leader averred.
He added: “The beginning of the conflict was tribal and particular parts of the Nuer ethnicity were targeted in Juba by groups who were sponsored by the government. Currently, there is a political-tribal war in South Sudan, and until there is a true description of the conflict, we cannot see progress in the (Rome) discussions.”
Gen. Cirillo stated the third area of dispute is connected to the permanent constitution and the processes for developing, signing, and ratifying it. He stated that NAS and its supporters advocated that the permanent constitution be handled via grassroots and public engagement, while the government feels that the national assembly is responsible for ratifying the constitution.
“We feel that the people of South Sudan are the ones who have the authority to draft their constitution and there is no political group that controls the power of the people and the constitution, therefore we disagreed with the government,” he continued.
The fourth point of departure according to Gen. Cirillo, is connected to changes in the military and other organized forces in southern Sudan.
“The government in Juba asserts that all the troops of the opposition groups are integrated into the army commanded by a certain tribe,” Cirillo stated. “NAS and its supporters feel that there should be changes by building a national military institution that represents all the people of South Sudan to safeguard the country’s future.”
He notes that notwithstanding the suspension of the Rome discussions, NAS remains committed to resuming negotiations under the Rome Initiative.
Concerning the security of NAS members in East Africa, Gen. Cirillo remarked, they did not acquire security assurances for their leaders in East Africa.
Last year, SSOMA skipped the Rome negotiations after one of its leaders was assassinated in Kampala.
On joining the transitional government in Juba once they reach an agreement, he said that the end of the transitional period for the government in Juba is not the responsibility of NAS and its allies but emphasized that they are seeking the government’s acceptance of the front’s demands so that the people of South Sudan live in dignity.
Gen. Cirillo accused the government of pursuing the approach of forging deals with opposition groups to remain in power and continue abusing the people of South Sudan.
“We reject the concept and we want a peace accord that tackles the core causes of the conflict and the people’s aspirations for basic rights,” the General stated.
On the cessation of hostilities agreement being regularly broken, the NAS head criticized Kiir’s administration and the SSPDF.
“The government signed the agreement to suspend hostilities as a ploy to annihilate NAS troops in our areas of control,” Gen. Cirillo added. “Momentarily and over the previous three years, our views are targeted to damage and weaken the stance of NAS throughout the discussions until we sign an agreement to share viewpoints.”
He vowed: “We want to proclaim to the government that NAS would continue the battle to free the people of South Sudan and realize their rights.” Gen. Cirillo said NAS has all the methods, whether via dialogue or military action, “but we feel that the peaceful approach is best if the government has the desire to embrace the aspirations of the people of South Sudan.”