SSOMA splits into two at Rome talks
Leaders in the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) said that differences within the coalition led to its division into two groups at the Rome talks recently.
Differences emerged within the SSOMA after statements by Sunday de John, a former spokesman for the Paul Malong led South Sudan United Front (SSUF), about the existence of secret talks between the latter and the government in Juba.
The Thomas Cirillo led South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA), a coalition that is a member of SSOMA, suspended the membership of Malong’s SSUF from SSOMA. Pagan Amum, head of the Real Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (R-SPLM) and member of the SSOMA leadership council, rejected Malong’s suspension saying the move violates the regulations of the alliance.
The SSOMA leadership council is comprised of Thomas Cirillo, Paul Malong Awan, and Pagan Amum.
The Rome talks, mediated by the Community of Sant'Egidio, took place last week separately after the group led by Thomas Cirillo refused to enter talks jointly with Paul Malong’s and Pagan Amum’s outfits.
Emmanuel Ajawin, the head of the National Democratic Movement – Patriotic Front (NDM-PF), a member of SSOMA, told Radio Tamazuj on Thursday that the coalition suspended the membership of General Paul Mulong's SSUF and that the R-SPLM led by Pagan Amum refused to sign the coalition’s charter.
"In light of the suspension of the membership of the Paul Malong’s group and the refusal of Pagan Amum’s movement to sign the coalition charter, this means that they are not members of the SSOMA coalition," Ajawin said.
Ajawin said the coalition told the Community of Sant'Egidio about the suspension of the membership of the Pagan Amum and Paul Malong led movements from SSOMA, saying the two groups are not part of the alliance until disputed issues are resolved.
General Oyay Deng Ajak, a leading member of R-SPLM, described the move taken by the Cirillo group as illogical, saying that the SSOMA leadership comprised of three leaders; Pagan Amum, Paul Malong, and Thomas Cirillo.
"If Pagan and Malong are in agreement now, it means that General Thomas Cirillo has remained alone. Therefore the original alliance is led by Malong and Pagan, and there is no another SSOMA," Deng Ajak said.
Deng Ajak explained that they sought to remedy the problems that took place within the coalition before the start of the latest talks in Rome, but that the Cirillo group was refusing to meet with Paul Malong at the same table.
Asked if the reason for the R-SPLM’s refusal to sign the alliance’s charter was due to the suspension of the membership of the Malong’s group, Deng Ajak said, “The R-SPLM did not sign the SSOMA charter because of reservations about some articles in the charter.”
Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, deputy head of the government delegation, said that they were surprised by the divisions within the SSOMA and this prompted them to hold separate meetings with the two groups.
"We held separate meetings with the Thomas Cirillo group and a number of points were discussed and initialled. And we held meetings with the Pagan and Malong group and the two parties confirmed their seriousness to achieve peace," Marial Benjamin said. "The goal of the government is to hold talks with all movements that are still taking up arms against the government."