South Sudan gov't, opposition groups recommit to ceasefire in Rome talks

South Sudan government and hold-out opposition groups have recommitted to observe the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) at the just-concluded round of peace talks in Rome that commenced on Oct. 9.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, head of government's delegation said they agreed with the opposition groups under the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) to continue to observe the ceasefire reached earlier on in January before resuming the next round of talks to discuss the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan. 

 

"The basis of the talks first is to recommit to the COHA and de-escalate any sort of incidents that happened but the most important thing is that there has been sort of violations on both sides," Marial told Xinhua in Juba on Tuesday upon arrival in the capital.

 

The talks that closed on Monday were mediated by the Catholic community of Sant'egidio which brokered the earlier ceasefire in January this year. 

 

"What we initiated on Monday was what we call the Declaration of Principles (DOP), it's a series of items that have been initiated so that we come back on Nov. 30 in order to continue to discuss the political issues that are the root causes of the conflict," he added.

Opposition groups under SSOMA, include the National Salvation Front (NAS) under renegade general Thomas Cirilo, National Democratic Movement (NDM) led by Lam Akol, South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC) and United Democratic Revolutionary Movement/Army (UDRM/A).

However, Marial said that the talks did not touch on the issue of borders and boundaries including subjecting the amended constitution to a referendum as suggested by opposition delegates. "We are not discussing now the issues of borders and boundaries because we are still handling it with Sudan. We haven't yet even finished our borders with Sudan. Secondly, for the internal borders of the counties and the rest it is agreed that there will be a committee that will be formed in order to discuss these issues internally," said Marial. 

He disclosed that the amended constitution will be discussed by the transitional parliament upon its establishment.

Meanwhile, SSOMA in a statement reiterated recommitment to observing the COHA and participation in Ceasefire Transitional Arrangement Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, a body set up to monitor ceasefire by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

"The parties initiated the COHA recommitment document and agreed on points of the proposed DOP pending the discussion of the remaining points in the next round of talks that will take place," it said.

The ten-point principles under the DOP, include allowing unhindered humanitarian access across the country.

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