South Sudan Opposition Demands Ruto-Led Peace Talks Moved From Kenya

Barely a week after President William Ruto took over the mediation of the South Sudan peace talks, voices of dissent have begun cropping up casting doubt over its success.

In an interview with Radio Tamazuj, a South Sudanese outlet, on Tuesday, Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, who is a prominent opposition leader, revealed that whereas the opposition welcomed Ruto’s efforts in helping the East African nation to find lasting peace, the choice of Nairobi as the location for the talks was misguided.

He argued that a team from Saint Egidio in Rome, where an initial agreement was reached, had not been consulted for the talks.

“Our reservation is not about doubting the Kenyan mediation itself, but rather the process surrounding it. The main issue is that the agenda for the talks was decided without consulting us. The Kenyan mediation aims to find new mechanisms for implementing the R-ARCSS, a deal signed between the government and SPLM-IO led by Riek Machar in 2018. However, we have consistently refused to be part of this agreement, which we view as unjust and inadequate in addressing the root causes of South Sudan’s problems,” he stated.

General Thomas Cirillo, a prominent opposition leader in South Sudan.


Radio Tamazuj

“During the speeches in Nairobi on the 9th, the focus was on implementing the R-ARCSS, despite our exclusion from the agreement. If the aim is to find new mechanisms for implementation, all signatories should be involved, which includes us. This lack of inclusion is one of our concerns with the Kenyan mediation.”

The General further lamented that opposition voices of South Sudanese in Kenya were muffled by intense security that accompanied President Salva Kiir for the commencement of the talks.

He argued that some of the citizens were living in fear of retaliation and demanded the talks be transferred to Rome for effective solutions.

“In Juba, some of our opposition members have been killed or detained by President Kiir’s security agents. The heavy presence of these security forces in Kenya has created a climate of fear among South Sudanese citizens, making Nairobi unsuitable for negotiations,” Cirillo added.

“We want our people to feel free to express their aspirations, as they did during the Naivasha peace talks in 2005. Kenya is not conducive to this due to the fear our citizens live in, which is why we advocate for keeping peace talks in Rome, where conditions are more conducive.”

Separate publications in Juba, however, expressed their reservations over the likelihood of success of the talks especially since most activists are secretly arrested in Kenya and deported to Juba.

“The Kenyan initiative may increase the number of “inactive” opposition groups in Juba, but it is unlikely to secure the peace that South Sudan desperately needs,” a South Sudanese human rights expert lamented.

The talks officially kicked off in Nairobi on May 9 with Ruto determined to end the conflict and political instability in South Sudan.

In the negotiation, eight categories of parties and groups were brought together ensuring the process is inclusive and home-grown.

“This initiative exemplifies the Pan-African policy of African solutions to African challenges, contributing to the ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa initiative’ and fostering an environment for transformational development in South Sudan, our region, and the entire African continent,” the Kenyan President stated.

Among the leaders who attended the event were Salva Kiir Mayardit (South Sudan), Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi), Hakainde Hichilema (Zambia), Nangolo Mbumba (Namibia), and Faustin-Archange Touadera (Central African Republic), and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, among others.

Cirillo, however, insists that members of the St Egidio should have been included.

“During our pre-negotiation meeting in Rome, we raised two points with the Kenyan delegation sent by President William Ruto. Firstly, we proposed expanding the negotiation team to include members of St. Egidio, given their significant role in previous peace efforts,” Cirillo lamented.

“Secondly, we advocated for Rome to remain the venue for peace talks due to its neutrality and security. Despite Kenya’s positive contributions to South Sudan, concerns remain about Kenyan security, which has arrested and handed over opposition members to the South Sudanese government.”

President William Ruto meeting KTDA tea factory chairmen and directors at State House, Nairobi, on May 14, 2024.


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