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South Sudan Displeased at Non-Invitation to Obama Meeting

US President Barack Obama (L), alongside African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (C), and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, arrives to speak about security and economic issues and US-Africa relations in Africa at the African Union He

South Sudan’s foreign minister says the government in Juba is disappointed after it was left out of a meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the country’s conflict.

Obama met with regional leaders and senior officials of the African Union and regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. IGAD has been trying, unsuccessfully, since January last year to broker a peace deal for South Sudan.

South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin says his country plans on Wednesday to send a petition to the AU and IGAD for breaching protocol by refusing to inform or invite the “constitutionally elected” South Sudanese government to the meeting with Obama.

He welcomed President Obama’s effort to help resolve the crisis in South Sudan, but said it was wrong for the country to be left out of the meeting.

Letter of protest

Marial says the government has been working closely with the United States to ensure peace returns to South Sudan. He says he will send a letter of protest to the foreign minister of Ethiopia, which chairs IGAD.

“That is very disappointing on the part of the IGAD chairperson as well as the African Union because this republic should have been invited. If you talk about the issue of South Sudan, that you want to bring to peace, and you don’t invite that country, then that is even a difficult process to proceed sort of normally,” said Marial.

“We would definitely put our protest very clearly to the chairperson of IGAD for having failed to advise His Excellency President Obama that if there is a regional meeting, you must also invite the Republic of South Sudan.”

Critics say South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has squandered the country’s goodwill since it became the world’s newest nation just four years ago. They also say they are disappointed that Mr. Kiir and former vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar have yet to reach a deal to restore peace in South Sudan, despite more than 18 months of negotiations led by IGAD.

Sovereignty ignored

Marial thanked the international community for its goodwill, but added that South Sudan's efforts to end the fighting that erupted on December 15, 2013, are being ignored.

"This international community is not listening to what the democratically elected government of South Sudan is doing towards this. President Salva Kiir and his government have made tremendous sacrifices in as far as the peace process is concerned, from day one of December 2013. And it seems they are not listening to the efforts done by the government,” said Marial.

“It is not fair on the part of the international community to continue with this moral equivalence between an elected leadership and a rebel movement. It actually makes it a very disappointing diplomatic sort of gesture to the people of South Sudan who fought so hard to get their own country," he said.

"Yes, we have a crisis, but please respect us as an elected government. To do such an act, I mean no country will take such a treatment in their face,” he added.

Critics have accused the leadership of South Sudan of failing the people as the conflict, which has so far left tens of thousands of people dead and displaced more than two million, stretches into its 21st month.

Marial disagreed.

“The leadership of the government has not failed. If anything, the leadership of South Sudan has cooperated tremendously with the international community and has made adequate compromises that actually guarantee a peace process will go ahead,” said Marial.

“The government is implementing the cessation of hostilities [agreement] strictly, in spirit and in letter. The international community is not seeing that, and this is unfair.”

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