Addis Ababa — The armed opposition faction of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM in opposition) led by the former vice president, Riek Machar, said they have boycotted the peace talks in protest against unfair processes in the selection of other stakeholders to take part in the IGAD-mediated negotiations.
A spokesperson for the rebel leader said the 4th round of peace talks which opened on Friday in the Ethiopian capital was "partial" and "premature" without the rebels participation due to the "reluctance by IGAD" to address their "genuine" concerns over the selection processes.
"We submitted our genuine request to the IGAD mediation team to review the selection processes of the civil society organizations and faith-based groups before an inclusive roundtable talks kicked off. However, mediators have not responded and instead went ahead with partial opening of the talks on Friday without our participation," James Gatdet Dak, a spokesperson for the rebel leader, Riek Machar, told Sudan Tribune when contacted on Sunday.
"Our delegation has therefore boycotted this premature process in protest," he said.
Dak further explained that the SPLM in opposition was however ready to participate in direct talks with the government's delegation, pending fair representation and transparent processes in the selection of civil society organizations and faith-based groups who would then join the talks after satisfactory selections.
"We are however saying our delegation is ready for initial direct talks with the team from the government until the matter surrounding the participation of the other stakeholders is resolved," he explained.
The ruling faction of the SPLM, and the SPLM-former detainees on 20 June initially contested the representation of civil society groups and decided to boycott the talks. While, the deputy spokesperson of the SPLM-in opposition Mabior Garang de Mabior, issued a statement saying they accepted to resume talks despite the similar reservations they expressed.
However Dak argued that the selection process was bias as civil society organizations and faith-based groups who fled the country and now live abroad were excluded from participation, adding that the "handpicked" groups are dominated by the pro-government societies from Juba.
"Civil society organizations abroad such as those who have fled to Kenya and Ethiopia are the victims. Their representation is important in order to incorporate their views on how to end the crisis," he stressed.
The rebel leader's spokesperson said it would be meaningless to play negative games in the process of inclusivity if the common goal to achieve was to gather and harmonize divergent views of the various stakeholders for a sustainable peace process in South Sudan.
Dak decried what he said was a rushed partial opening of the talks on Friday and Saturday in Addis Ababa during which only the government, former SPLM detainees and pro-government civil society organizations participated.
"IGAD mediators should be conscious about this negative trend which tends to jeopardize the peace process," he cautioned, adding that the situation should be corrected in a fair and transparent manner.
He explained that the SPLM in opposition had been for inclusivity in the peace talks from day one when the negotiations were launched, but added that the alleged games being played around the selection processes are potentially detrimental to the process.
The rebel official further appealed to IGAD mediators to include representatives of the other civil society and faith-based groups who fled South Sudan and now operate from abroad due to insecurity and intimidations by the Juba regime.
IGAD officials on Friday met with the rebel top negotiator Taban Deng, to discuss the rejection of the SPLM-in opposition to participate in the negotiations.