:By DANIEL GARANG DENG
The leader of the Real SPLM, an opposition group said president Salva Kiir’s invitation for the oppositions to come home and participate in the general election is ‘misplaced’ without reaching a deal with the oppositions.
According to Pa’gan Amum, the government has delayed reaching a deal with the holdout groups in Rome Peace initiative by continuously suspending its participation in the negotiation.
“The invitation by the president is misplaced, because we have been negotiating with the government in Rome, and President Kiir suspended his government participation in Rome talks several times and now he decided to walk out from the Rome peace process to shop for a new forum in Kenya,” said Amum.
On Christmas’ Eve, the minister of Presidential Affairs, Joseph Bakasoro said president Kiir has written to Kenyan president Dr. William Samoei Ruto asking him to mediate a peace talk between the government and the holdout groups.
“The peace process in Sant Egidio has been long. So, the president decided to shift it to Kenya. We are shifting it to Kenya to see whether it will take short time this time,” Bakasoro told The Radio Community.
Later in his new year’s message, president Kiir extended invitation to the holdout groups to come home and participate in election.
“I call upon the opposition forces, especially the hold out groups who are fighting against the Government to lay down their arms and return home and exercise their democratic rights in the upcoming general Elections,” Kiir’s new year’s message partly reads.
General Paul Malong, leader of another opposition group -South Sudan United Front (SSUF) who is in one coalition with Pa’gan Amum had described the two messages as ‘Confusion’ from the government in Juba given the timeframe they are delivered.
“The government in Juba is confused because last week, they requested Kenyan president to mediate between us and again they are calling us to go and participate in the election,” Garang Malual, SSUF’s spokesperson said. “Which one now is the important thing to be done first?”
“This government must be joking,” Pa’gan Amum of Real SPLM concluded.
Besides Kiir having reached no deal with them, Pa’gan raises questions on the unimplemented tasks of the 2018 peace agreement which includes permanent constitution, creating a conducive environment for elections and granting civic and political space.
“How can the country hold elections when the SPLM-IG is using the oppressive security organs to suppress freedoms and close the political and civic space in the country? How can you hold elections when the people have not gone through the permanent constitutional process?” Amum said. “Those elections were supposed to be conducted under a permanent democratic Constitution.”
Other activists have also argued that the permanent constitution must first be in place before the general elections to determine the system of governance, portfolios and how possible elections disputes can be address among other critical issues.
However, the government continue to insist that the elections will be held without the permanent constitution.
“What we are saying is that the current constitution making process, yes! Will continue but we will continue with elections according to the current constitution. We will amend the current constitution so that it gives us the power to elect. The body that will be elected be a constituent assembly,” Michael Makuei, government spokesperson explained.
“How do you conduct elections and census, voter registration, demarcation of constituencies are not conducted. What type of elections are these. How do you hold elections when the government has not budgeted for such elections and the National election Commission is not funded?” Pa’gan continued.
For the peace talk expected to be mediated between the government and holdout groups by Kenyan President William Samoei Ruto as requested by president Kiir, Pa’gan said they are not invited officially.
“It was the government who delayed the talks in Rome by suspending them several times. As for requesting Kenya to mediate. We are not officially informed by the government, and we do not know whether Kenya accepted to mediate or not,” he said. “To this moment we are not invited.”
Since 2020, the government of South Sudan has been in a peace negotiation known as Rome Declaration with the holdout groups -a coalition of opposition parties who did not sign the 2018 peace agreement, but no peace deal has yet been reached in the three years’ peace talks.
South Sudan is expected to hold its first ever general elections on December 22nd this year since the country gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011.