- Lam Akol, chairman of South Sudan’s main opposition party (AFP/Samir Bol Photo)
Those in the US include the National Democratic Movement (NDM) party leader, Lam Akol, the chairperson of the National Salvation Front (NSF) General Thomas Cirilo Swaka and leader of the Federal Democratic Party (FDP), Gabriel Changson Chang.
“The mission is about peace. We are hoping to meet officials in the US government, especially the new administration, members of the congress, senators the UN officials, academics, members of the civil society organizations , churches and any other peace loving persons to stand with the people of South Sudan,” an opposition figure accompanying the leaders told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
He added, “This is the country which came to being because of the efforts and role played by the United States, the United Nations and indeed the international community at large”.
The leaders, according to the source, left their different locations in South Sudan and elsewhere in the region for the US on Tuesday and were received, upon arrival, by the representatives of their factions.
A South Sudanese government representative in the US said he heard of the presence of the opposition leaders, but did not have any information on the purpose of their mission in the country.
“Yes I heard the delegation of opposition groups composed of Lam Akol, Thomas Cirilo and Gabriel Changson arrived in New York on Tuesday and will proceed to Washington on Friday,” the official said.
In June, a summit of IGAD heads of state and government decided that meeting of the signatories of the South Sudan peace agreement to discuss ways to revitalize the peace implementation be convened. At the summit, it was agreed that all groups be included in discussions aimed at restoring a permanent ceasefire.
IGAD unveiled the timetable for the revitalization forum with South Sudanese leaders and the nation’s citizens. The process began on 13 October and ends on 17 October.
The South Sudanese government warned that the revitalization forum by IGAD, the regional bloc which mediated the 2015 peace accord, should not be another platform for negotiations of the peace accord between the two factions to the conflict.
Over a million people have fled South Sudan since conflict erupted in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir sacked Machar from the vice-presidency. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in South Sudan’s worst ever violence since it seceded from Sudan in July 2011.