By Radio Tamazuj
South Sudan government said it was “ready” for talks with armed rebels and anyone who favours dialogue, as international pressure to end the conflict intensifies.
The offer for negotiations came after the rebel group South Sudan United Front (SSUF) led by former military chief Gen. Paul Malong called for face-to-face talks with the government.
Following meetings with IGAD officials in Nairobi on Tuesday, Malong expressed his willingness and readiness to engage in the peace process through negotiations with the government to be facilitated by the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan.
“We are ready for dialogue with all who want dialogue because we need peace. What we want is a genuine dialogue with clear commitments, so we are waiting for IGAD to update us on the outcome of its meetings with those holdout groups,” said Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s Minister of Information.
Minister Makuei told Radio Tamazuj Wednesday that the rebels’ willing to hold direct talks with the government is a positive sign.
“We cannot talk about power sharing now. Let those groups agree in principle that they accept peace,” he said.
Makuei, who is also the government spokesman, criticized holdout opposition groups for insisting that the terms of the revitalised peace deal should be reopened.
“Those groups have a problem with the revitalised peace agreement. Thomas Cirillo is calling for renegotiation of the peace agreement and they are saying that the agreement failed to address the root cause of the problem in South Sudan,” he said.
However, Makuei said the doors to peace with armed rebels are still wide open, saying that the government has not yet closed the doors to peace. “We are still waiting for those who want to talk to us,” he said.
In April 2018, the South Sudan government rejected Malong’s participation in the peace process in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The president’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, said the former military chief believed in violence more than peace.
In September 2018, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and several opposition leaders, including main opposition leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal to end the conflict that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.
A new unity government is expected to assume power in May 2019 before elections three years later.