August 5, 2015 / 9:17 PM / 5 years ago

South Sudan opposition figure blocked from traveling to peace talks

Lam Akol has his finger inked after casting his vote at the polling centre in Khartoum January 9, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

JUBA (Reuters) - A South Sudanese opposition leader who has been a leading critic of President Salva Kiir said on Wednesday he was barred from boarding a plane to attend peace talks in Ethiopia.

Lam Akol, whose Shilluk ethnic group say they have been sidelined for years, said the IGAD East African regional bloc had invited him to peace talks but he was blocked from boarding the flight from the capital Juba to Addis Ababa.

“Unfortunately, a major general of the police told us that he has directives from the Presidency that the leaders of political parties are not allowed to travel without the permission from the presidency,” Akol told Reuters.

Awen Riek, speaking for the president’s office, said the government had no information that Akol’s party had been invited to the talks.

A political crisis in South Sudan in late 2013 sparked fighting that reopened ethnic fault lines between Kiir’s Dinka people and ethnic Nuer forces.

Other ethnic groups, such as Akol’s Shilluk, say they have been excluded from peace talks. The talks have made glacial progress and ceasefire agreements have been broken repeatedly.

Akol, a foreign minister of South Sudan when it was a semi-autonomous region before independence in 2011, formed his SPLM-DC party after breaking away from the ruling SPLM. He criticized the scrapping of elections that were due in June and opposed the extension of Kiir’s term in office by three years.

Reporting by Denis Demo; Writing by Edith Honan; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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