Several South Sudan rebel groups initially left out of the 2018 peace deal have signed a crucial agreement committing to a ceasefire and to rejoin the government. The deal was mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
The development happened on Thursday in Kenya’s Naivasha town and saw the two main rebel groups sign the Declaration of Principles, which will be the main guide for negotiations with the government of National Unity.
Kenya, which is acting as a facilitator for the talks, said the document now clears many of the obstacles to lasting peace, including representatives to be involved in discussions as well as the commitments to address each of the security concerns for the groups.
The Declaration of Principles “denotes [an] overarching anchoring framework, on whose basis the parties will discuss the substantive issues,” said a statement from Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Officials said the session was given adequate legitimacy by the presence of South Sudan’s key allies.
The session was witnessed by Kenya Foreign Affairs Cabinet Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba, Kenya’s Special Envoy for South Sudan Kalonzo Musyoka, representatives from Uganda, the Panel of Experts on South Sudan, the European Union, the Revitalised Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission as well as diplomats from Sudan, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
Even though there were no clear timelines on when key issues would be discussed, the general consensus is that the groups should join the Unity government, formed in February 2020, before the end of the 30-month period.
The groups reached consensus on Tuesday after two parties under the opposition group South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) re-signed a re-commitment declaration on the 2020 Rome Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, which was mediated by the Rome Church Community of Sant’Egidio. The groups did not sign the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in 2018.
“The Declaration recommits both parties to the Rome Process while agreeing to continue political dialogue as part of the peace process to address concerns and the root causes of the conflict in order to achieve just, all-inclusive and sustainable peace in South Sudan,” said a statement from Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The signatories were Pagan Amum and Paul Malong, both former senior government officials, who fell out with President Salva Kiir and now lead the SSOMA coalition. Mr Amum is the former secretary general of the Sudan People Liberation Movement, while Gen Malong is the former Chief of Defence Forces.
Marial Benjamin, the unity government’s head of delegation expressed gratitude for the steps taken by the negotiating parties.