JUBA – South Sudan’s former foreign minister and presidential envoy, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, has said Rome peace talk with holdout opposition groups has been postponed because some important members of the government negotiating team have contracted the novel coronavirus.
Earlier this week, a presidency official told Sudans Post that presidential affairs minister, Nhial Deng Nhial, the executive director in the office of the president James Deng Wal, and unnamed journalist working for the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC) at the president’s office have contracted the virus, along with Kiir’s press secretary Ateny Wek Ateny who had announced his infection earlier in the day.
The office of the president however denied in a statement that the senior government officials have tested positive for the virus, only admitting that Ateny has tested positive for the virus, but then admitted that ‘3 senior staff’ that it didn’t name, have tested positive for the virus.
Speaking to Sudans Post in an interview this morning, Marial said Rome peace talks could not go through as planned because some members he categorized as ‘important’ in the team have tested positive for the virus making it difficult for them to travel to Rome.
“We couldn’t travel to Rome because some important members of our team got infected with the virus and that is why we postponed the talks to give time for them to heal,” Marial said without naming those ‘important’ members of the team who have caught the virus.
“In a few week’s time, when these members recover, we will travel for the resumption of talks with the opposition groups who are not part of the revitalized agreement,” he added.
Asked whether Nhial Deng Nhial who is also the government chief negotiator is among the team members infected with the virus, Marial said he “won’t comment on health status of other.”
The senior government official further reiterated the government’s commitment to restore peace in the country through peace means.