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Mediators Plan To Shift South Sudan Peace Talks To Nairobi From Rome Faces Turbulence

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After the latest round of talks in Rome in October, the next stage in the peace process between the South Sudanese government and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) keeps getting pushed further and further back. As proposed by the mediating Sant’Egidio Community, the talks were to resume in Nairobi in January to make it easier for the various delegations to attend under Covid-19 travel restrictions.

A source familiar with the talks told Kenya Insights on the favoring factors that would’ve made it suitable for Nairobi to host the talks, “Considering the fact that many South Sudanese live in Kenya, they would be involved in the process hence giving it much legitimacy. Secondly, President Uhuru has been so neutral in the crisis to a point he is hosting politicians exiled from South Sudan. This then makes it very easy to reach an everlasting deal in Kenya more than in any other place in Africa.”

He continued, “Kenya stand to get the credits if a peace deal is reached in Nairobi.”

But the Kenyan authorities have still not approved this change of location and it is understood they will not give their decision before the end of February.

Our source fears that the process has been hijacked by middlemen both in Kenya and South Sudan and are hell bent to ensure the talks which were favored to be moved to Nairobi by mediators due to proximity doesn’t happen. “Some politicians here have conspired to rob Kenya of the accolades it stand to add to its image from the success of this talks.” Our source said.

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He alleged that there has been spirited effort by the middlemen to ensure the letter sent to the Foreign Affairs Office requesting for the transfer didn’t get to Uhuru’s attention, “the transfer from Rome to Nairobi was to be finalized on 5th Jan but the CS kept dragging without giving clear decisions. The Italian Ambassador later told Santi Egi’dio that in fact the request has never reached to President Uhuru.” He told Kenya Insights.

These planning hiccups are compounded by political complications: during the negotiations, SSOMA split into two factions. On one side is the leader of the Real Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Pagan Amum Okiech, joined by the head of the South Sudan United Front, Paul Malong Awan, both of whom have agreed to moving the mediation process to Nairobi. One other side is the leader of the National Salvation Front, Thomas Cirillo Swaka, who has categorically refused to travel to Kenya and accuses Nairobi of playing favourites in the conflict.

Our source goes further to question why Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka who’s the special envoy appointed by the president to negotiate the peace and South Sudan Intelligence Chief Akol Koor didn’t fight hard to see the talks transferred to Nairobi knowing well all the factors would work best for the interests of South Sudan.

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Lifting of US sanctions

On account of these opposing views, the mediators are considering moving forward in two stages. This would involve a first meeting in Nairobi – provided that this is accepted by the Kenyan authorities – attended by Amum and Malong’s groups, and then a second in Rome with Cirillo.

The government is in a hurry to move forward on the process. It wants to be able to prove itself to US President Joe Biden‘s new administration, which has been quickly restoring US relations with the new authorities in Khartoum. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir hopes that the US will lift its sanctions on the country but this decision could be conditional to the success of the talks with the SSOMA.

As mentioned earlier, a good number of South Sudan leaders including President Kiir and nationals are hosted in Nairobi and it would only make sense if the talks are held here on a neutral ground with opposing parties both available on one table for a long lasting peace. Postponing the agreements, secluding others by keeping the talks far away in Rome is only going to work on the reverse.

Hon. Kalonzo should seize the opportunity and ensure the talks are transferred to Nairobi and of at all the word has not reached Uhuru then it now should. The claims that some officials have been deliberately frustrating the transfer efforts should also be investigated.

Additional reporting by Africa Intelligence.


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