South Sudan: Opposition rejects a merger with ruling party

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, creating one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

South Sudan's main opposition group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO or SPLM/A-IO), has rejected a merger with the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), headed by President Silva Kiir, despite having been signatory to a 2015 reunification agreement.

Nathaniel Oyet Pierino, representative of the SPLM-IO at the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC), said the opposition has decided to be independent of the SPLM, since it has firmly built political structures to contest leadership in the east African country.

"SPLM/A-IO is already a full-fledged political organization. It's a political party in itself. Maybe you are talking about a name (SPLM) only, but we have structures from the top to the bottom... the political and military structure which makes us a movement," Oyet said on Sunday.

"We are already a party. So we don't see any urgency or any requirement that is necessitating to unify the SPLM," he told Xinhua in an interview in Juba.

Oyet said the reunification agreement signed in 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania, by the SPLM, SPLM-IO and the Former Political Detainees (FDs), a group of opposition members who did not take up arms during outbreak of violence in December 2013, is not priority as it has been overtaken by events such as the July 2016 renewed violence.

"We feel the spirit of Arusha has been overtaken by all these events and now we have a new agreement. It's not a priority now that we should unite as SPLM. We look at it as political maneuver to circumvent the implementation of the peace agreement," said Oyet.   

Michael Makuei Lueth, minister of information and broadcasting, said last week progress has been made in reunification of the SPLM party, with the former political detainees leaving SPLM-IO led by Riek Machar as the only group outside the pact.

"The agreement that we signed in 2015 was within the overall spirit that these factions of SPLM would work together again but then they did not accept," Makuei said.

Oyet said that if unification was to occur, it would violate the revitalized peace agreement signed late September 2018 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

"To suggest that unifying the SPLM to be one, then the government of national unity would cease to exist. This goes contrary to the spirit of the (Addis Ababa) agreement," he said.

Oyet said his party is more than ready to contest the 2022 elections after the end of the three-year transitional period, which starts in May.

"We are going to participate in elections at all levels," he said.

Oyet said his party remains committed to the peace implementation, having returned to the capital with all its political and military structures.

"The implementation is behind schedule. We have not determined the number of states and their boundaries, not yet worked out devolution of power and resources. We have not united the army, and the incorporation of the peace agreement into the constitution is still underway," he said.

So far only 25 percent of the work required during the pre-transitional period has been undertaken, Oyet said.

He blamed the delay on the fact that the government and the international community have not yet released funds.

"We expected funding to come from the government and also international partners, but this has not been done," Oyet said. "You cannot implement some of these provisions without it."

He admitted that there are other aspects of implementation that do not need finances, like lifting of state of emergency and release of political detainees.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, creating one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

President Salva Kiir, his former deputy and arch rival Riek Machar, and several opposition groups signed a power-sharing deal in September 2018 in Addis Ababa to end the five-year-old conflict. 

Xinhua

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