JUBA, South Sudan

The South Sudan government and dissident leaders Paul Malong and Pagan Amum Thursday agreed to begin discussions to end conflicts in the country.

A declaration of principles was signed on Thursday between the two parties at peace talks ongoing in Naivasha, Kenya.

Addressing a joint news conference after the talks, the government’s lead negotiator, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, described the signing of declaration principles as a success.

The 15-point document signed by all parties covers issues related to land, rule of law, security reforms, and proper management of state resources.

Benjamin said: “It is an extensive basic document with principles that will lead us to the final peace process.”

Paul Malong, the head of South Sudan United Front, said the interest of people will take center-stage during the discussions.

“We have agreed on all the issues we have discussed. We need to have peace and freedom in our country,” Malong said. “We don’t have personal grievances. We are talking about the issues facing our country.”

Sudanese People’s Liberation Army’s (SPLM) leader Pagan Amum said the breakthrough will enable the parties to bring about lasting peace in the North African country.

The peace talks started in 2019 by the Rome-based Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio.

The mediation is aimed at supporting an inclusive peace agreement in South Sudan by persuading the holdout groups to join the revitalized peace deal signed in September 2018.

In October last year, the talks were adjourned after parties could not reach a consensus on some contentious issues.

In January, the government asked for the talks to be rescheduled after some of its delegation members tested positive for coronavirus.

The IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) Special Envoy to South Sudan, Ismail Wais, proposed the relocation of peace talks to any African country.

The mediator, Sant E’gidio, then rescheduled the meeting in Naivasha, Kenya.

South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013, after a disagreement between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his then-deputy Riek Machar caused a split in the army leading to fighting between soldiers loyal to their respective leaders.

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