Opposition leader Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir shake hands in Juba for the first time since 31 October last year.
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 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, received 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 12 November 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.
“Dr Riek Machar today arrived in Juba. That is a sign of commitment to peace,” said Henry Odwa, Deputy Spokesperson of the SPLA-iO after the closed-door meeting where various representatives from the opposition and the government were present.
“This evening our meeting concentrated on security arrangements because it is one of the fundamental provisions of this agreement. We deliberated on how we can fast-track [them] so that the necessary forces of 83,000 will be realized before 11 November,” he said, addressing waiting journalists.
Tat Gatluak, Presidential Advisor on Security Affairs, described the meeting as "fruitful" and "good".
“We have discussed all the terms of the agreement, especially the security framework, and we agreed completely on all details,” he said. “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,” added Gatluak, who is also the chairperson of the National Pre-Transitional Committee.
Talks between the two leaders were set to continue on Tuesday but were adjourned till Wednesday.
The two leaders will be trying to resolve outstanding issues to meet the November 12 deadline, seen as critical to the realization of durable peace in the young nation.