South Sudan’s former vice president and opposition leader Riek Machar arrived in the country’s capital, Juba, on Monday to begin a series of face-to-face meetings with President Salva Kiir as they look to give the much-needed impetus to the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement, signed in Addis Ababa just under 12 months ago.
Dr. Machar, Sudan’s People Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLA-IO) leader, arrived to a red-carpet welcome amid tight security and warm hugs from waiting officials from both the government and the opposition.
Machar, who was last in South Sudan on a one-day visit on 31 October 2018 to celebrate the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, is set to take up the role of First Vice President in a Revitalized Government of National Unity – now set to be formed on 12November 2019.
“My hope is that this meeting will be the first of many between the leaders that will build the confidence and trust that lays the foundation to establish a Revitalized Government of National Unity on 12 November,” said David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The long-awaited face-to-face meeting was preceded by a traditional hug and a handshake, as the two leaders warmly acknowledged each other.
“Dr Riek Machar today arrived in Juba. That is a sign of commitment to peace,” said Henry Odwa, Deputy Spokesperson, SPLA-IO after the closed-door meeting.
“This evening our meeting concentrated on security arrangements because it is one of the fundamental provisions of this agreement and we deliberated on how we can fast-track so that the necessary forces of 83,000 will be realized before 11th November,” he said, addressing waiting journalists.
Present at the Monday meeting were various representatives from the opposition and the government.
“We confirm to you that this was a fruitful; good meeting,” said Tut Gatluak, the Presidential Advisor on Security Affairs, South Sudan.
“We have discussed all the terms of the Agreement, especially the security framework, and we agreed completely on all details,” he added.
“We confirm to South Sudan citizens that the peace [process] is going very well and, by November, everything that we agreed will be implemented in a timely manner,” said Gatluak, who is also the chairperson of National Pre-transitional Committee.
Talks between the two leaders were set to continue today but have now been adjourned till tomorrow.
The two are trying to resolve outstanding issues in order to meet the November 12 deadline, seen as critical to the realization of durable peace in the young nation.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).