Mediators of the eight-nation bloc IGAD formally opened another round of South Sudanese peace negotiations in the Ethiopian capital on Thursday.
Government and rebel SPLM/A-IO delegates attended the ceremony, but representatives of the Juba-based non-armed opposition were blocked from traveling to the talks, including SPLM-DC leader Lam Akol.
Minister of Information Michael Makuei confirmed to Radio Tamazuj from the venue.
Opposition leader blocked
For his part, Lam Akol confirmed he was prevented from traveling to the talks, telling Radio Tamazuj that he should be allowed to participate in this round of negotiations.
“They told us that it is not allowed for the political parties alliances to travel to the talks,” Dr Akol told Eye radio.
“A Major from the police came to us and said that there were instructions from the Presidency that the leaders of political parties are banned from traveling outside the country without permission from the Presidency.”
Dr. Lam said this decision is a violation of their constitutional rights to freedom of movement.
“Of course, we do not work with the government to ask them for permission. We have a constitutional right to travel as guaranteed to us,” he added.
A member of the SPLM-G10 delegation, Oyai Deng Ajak, told Radio Tamazuj that the participation of Lam Akol in the talks is necessary and his name is on the list of participants.
Mesfin asks Kiir to allow Lam travel
Speaking at the opening ceremony, chief mediators Seyoum Mesfin said, “We have now reached a critical juncture whereby participants of this phase will make decisions that may impact the destiny of the people of South Sudan.”
“You have had enough time to consult, since the proposals are the very same issues that you have been discussing for the last 19 months,” Seyoum added, as quoted by Reuters.
IGAD has set a deadline of 17 August for the warring parties to strike a deal to end the war in South Sudan.
Should the talks fail, supporters of IGAD including the Troika countries have claimed that they will impose new sanctions on individuals obstructing peace.
In a statement, the members of the so-called IGAD PLUS mediation mechanism “express their collective commitment to the inclusivity of the South Sudan peace process.”
“In this regard, we express our concern that invited representatives of South Sudanese political parties have reportedly been prevented from traveling to Addis Ababa to participate in the IGAD PLUS process, which resumed yesterday,” the statement adds.
The mediators called on the South Sudanese government “to immediately allow these and all invited representatives to travel and participate fully.”