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Opposition faction rejoins South Sudan’s ruling party

May 7, 2018

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — A faction of South Sudan’s opposition has formally rejoined the ruling party.

The opposition party has dissolved, however other opposition factions have yet to unite with the party, according to an announcement Monday by First Vice President and former opposition chairman Taban Deng Gai.

The announcement comes ahead of peace talks led by a regional bloc and scheduled to be held in neighboring Ethiopia on May 17. South Sudan’s government hopes the party’s reunification will help advance the discussions. Previous attempts at peace have failed with a cease-fire signed on Dec. 24 breaking down within hours and the most recent round of talks in February ending in deadlock.

“The main issue in Addis is the breakdown of trust. If we unify and everyone comes together and we’re one political party, it’ll help trust building and negotiating will be easier,” Agel Machar, spokesman for the office of the first vice president, told The Associated Press.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is still trying to bring all sides together for negotiations, he said. This includes the other opposition faction led by former Vice President Riek Machar.

Machar’s party said the reunification of the ruling party will have no significance to the country’s five-year conflict, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions.

“Taban just wants to find a spot in that government. He was not in command of any (opposition) forces since (Riek Machar) left Juba in 2016,” said Lam Paul Gabriel, spokesman for Machar.

At least one analyst said the unification means “very little.”

“The real SPLM-IO is still in rebellion. This just formalizes the status quo,” said Alan Boswell, a South Sudan analyst for the Small Arms Survey.

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