South Sudan: Machar, Rebels to 'Join' National Dialogue

Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar

Key South Sudanese rebel leaders have expressed readiness to join in the National Dialogue following pressure from the international community.

They include Dr Riek Machar, Dr Lam Akol, Mr Joseph Bangazi Bakasoro and former army chief General Thomas Cirilo.

The deputy co-chair for the National Dialogue, Mr Gabriel Yoal Dok, confirmed that the key opposition leaders were currently in talks with the steering committee. He added that the talks were bearing fruits for the first time.

"We are in a dialogue with Dr Machar, Dr Akol and Gen Cirilo, among others, because they responded positively when contacted.

"There is no way they can ignore it," Mr Dok said after holding a closed door meeting on Wednesday in Juba with the African Union Representative for Peace in South Sudan, Mr Alfa Musa Konario.

He further stressed that the National Dialogue would continue to persuade the rebel leaders until they embrace peace and stability.

Mr Dok further said there was hope that the opposition leaders would send their representatives to Juba if unable to join the negotiation table in person.

Dr Machar has been in South Africa since last December. The former first vice president has been excluded from new initiatives to bring peace to South Sudan. His Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) is the biggest armed group outside the government.

Dr Akol, a former Agriculture Minister, leads the National Democratic Movement armed group.

Mr Bakasoro was a former Western Equatoria state governor who formed the National Movement for Change.

Gen Cirilo founded the National Salvation Front in March this year, vowing to dislodge President Salva Kiir militarily.

Information Minister Michael Makuei on Wednesday acknowledged the difficulty of fully implementing the peace agreement signed in August 2015 between the SPLM warring factions.

The agreement expires in six months after which South Sudan should hold elections.

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