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South Sudan Rebel Leaders Form Coalition

FILE - South Sudan government delegates are shown during recent peace talks in Addis Ababa, January, 2018. (J. Tanza/VOA)
FILE - South Sudan government delegates are shown during recent peace talks in Addis Ababa, January, 2018. (J. Tanza/VOA)

Nine South Sudanese opposition groups have formed an alliance to accelerate efforts to end the conflict in South Sudan.

Kwaje Lasu, secretary-general of the South Sudan National Movement for Change, told VOA's South Sudan In Focus program Thursday that the various opposition groups had united.

"We in opposition believe that the unity of the opposition is paramount to address the issues that brought the country to the crisis, and since High [Level] Revitalization Forum 2, we have been working together collectively as a unified opposition addressing the issues of the country.'' Lasu said, referring to the second phase of the South Sudan peace initiative.

The South Sudan Opposition Alliance is an umbrella group composed of the Federal Democratic Party, National Salvation Front, National Democratic Movement, People's Democratic Movement, South Sudan Liberation Movement, South Sudan National Movement for Change, South Sudan Patriotic Movement, South Sudan United Movement and United Democratic Alliance.

Lasu said the new group would work together at the third round of the talks mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), scheduled for March.

'It is an opportunity for us to cultivate our efforts and work together in a concerted mechanism to address the issues,'' he said.

Groups not mentioned

The rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO), loyal to South Sudan's former First Vice President Riek Machar, and the SPLM Former Detainees (SPLM-FD) were not mentioned among the groups in the new alliance.

"This is a preliminary process of unifying or forming the alliance," Lasu said. "SPLM-IO is still with us and we are working together as opposition. However, they are still making consultation before they join this new group.''

Lasu said the alliance leadership would rotate among the leaders of the coalition members.

''We are not interested in any accommodation. ... We are more concerned about what brought the country to this crisis, and we would like to address it in [a] unified voice as the opposition,'' he said.

Since violence erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, several groups opposed to President Salva Kiir sprang up, and leaders fled to the neighboring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan.

A group of opposition parties held a news conference in Addis Ababa last month to accuse South Sudan's government of not taking the High-Level Revitalization Forum seriously and of violating the latest cease-fire, which was signed in December. A South Sudan army spokesperson dismissed the accusations, saying it was the rebels who were attacking government positions across the country.

Both government and opposition forces have committed multiple violations since the cease-fire pact was signed, according to four separate investigations by the Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, or CTSAMM, an independent body.

IGAD adjourned the South Sudan peace talks last month for three weeks. Ismail Wais, IGAD's special envoy for South Sudan, told delegates from the South Sudanese stakeholders that his office would set a date for the resumption of peace talks.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.