South Sudan’s national dialogue initiative which was supposed to start in March has been delayed by difficulties in securing funds to kick off the event, a government official said on Sunday.

Presidential Spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said the dialogue, announced last December by President Salva Kiir was meant to open up avenues to discuss political, social and economic problems affecting South Sudanese and also offer a platform for reconciliation and healing among disgruntled communities of the War-torn country. Ateny said after being delayed for a month, the national dialogue will take place this month because the finance ministry has pledged to release the needed funds. “The national dialogue is delayed because the ministry of finance is still working to avail the money. It is difficult to get the money but we are assured that the dialogue will begin in April,” Ateny said.

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However, the armed opposition group (SPLA-IO) led by former Vice President Riek Machar criticized the dialogue, describing it as “political entice” geared towards consolidating power by the Kiir government. South Sudan has been devastated by civil war that broke out in December 2013 after President Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with over 2 million displaced since December 2013.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April, but was again shattered by fresh violence in July, 2016. The war has also inflicted heavy suffering on the oil-dependent country after oil revenues declined following fall in global oil price and shutdown of most oilfields in the Unity region as production fell to below 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 350,000 bpd.The East African nation is currently struggling with hyper inflation amid shortage of foreign reserves to support imports as civil servants have also gone for two months without salaries.

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Source: Xinhua/