South Sudan crisis talks are not all-inclusive, says opposition leader Lam Akol
Members of South Sudan's government and South Sudanese opposition groups, including the rebels led by former vice president Riek Machar, are slated to meet on Thursday for peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The talks are brokered by regional group Intergovernmental Authority on Development, who have already tabled a plan of their own for peace in South Sudan. RFI spoke to Lam Akol, the head of the National Alliance opposition who were prevented from boarding a plane bound for Addis Ababa to attend the talks.
Can you tell us what happened?
Before we boarded, a police officer…came and told us that we are not allowed to travel. On the ground he said that he had directives from the presidency that he had leaders of political parties to not travel unless they had permission from the presidency.
So we saw it as odd, because we are not government officials to take permission from the government. Travelling is a constitutional right, enshrined in our constitution that people should be free to travel when they like.
Do you think this is a personal slight against you or is this a political party issue against SPLM-DC or the New Alliance?
It is against the National Alliance, because our delegation of seven, all of us were told not to travel. So it is clearly against the National Alliance. And we think it’s that the government is not comfortable with our point of view in the talks, and they would want government loyal to them to represent the political parties. But of course, IGAD is saying no. The political parties should all be there, so that their opinion is heard. On the same plane there was a delegation of a party that supports the government. They were allowed to go but we were not allowed to go.
Have you appealed to IGAD regarding this?
Yes, I told them immediately, as soon as we were told not to board. And I think they will take a decision today.
Aren’t the talks supposed to be all-inclusive?
Yes, the talks are supposed to be, but you know the government. I think they have been encouraged, because last time, on the 13th of September, they prevented us from travelling to Addis. And the talks continued. So they think that history may repeat itself, and the government is not interested in inclusive talks. They just want to buy time with the rebels, because they are not ready to make the required compromises to bring peace around. They still believe they can score a military victory.