By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
April 17, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, on Thursday arrived in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn on the political turmoil in South Sudan.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (L), South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (C) and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta in Juba, December 26, 2013 (AP)
Ateny Wek Ateny, South Sudan’s presidential spokesperson earlier said President Kiir’s visit to Addis Ababa was mainly to discuss the way forward for the ongoing conflict, which has displaced over a million people.
"President Kiir will also hold talks with the African union and the IGAD mediation team on the current security developments, and to affirm commitment of the government to bringing lasting peace to the country," Ateny told reporters in Juba.
"The president is keen to see that talks are confined to the two warring parties," he added.
But while Ateny insisted the visit would focus on the current peace talk process, a senior diplomat at the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation, claimed the South Sudan leader was also expected to ask the Ethiopian prime minister, to expedite deployment of the regional troops to replace Uganda forces in the country.
Kiir recently paid visits to Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda where he held talks with leaders of the respective countries on the faltering peace process.
Part of his visit was also to push members of the East African regional body the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to immediately deploy peace keeping forces.
The deployment of an IGAD force - on top of the UN Mission in South Sudan - as had been agreed at previous meeting of the group, but it has been rejected by the South Sudanese rebels led by former vice president, Riek Machar.
Upon arrival at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, President Kiir was warmly welcomed by Aster Mamo, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister for good governance and reform cluster and minister of the civil service.
Government sources told Sudan Tribune that during their meeting, the South Sudanese leader briefed his Ethiopian counterpart on the current situation in South Sudan, as well as his recent regional tour.
President Kiir and Desalegn have reviewed the way IGAD was handling the peace process between South Sudan’s warring parties since its outbreak in December 2013.
The two sides also consulted on ways how the next round of negotiations should proceed in a way to that would quickly end the fierce fighting and bring about a peaceful and durable solution to the current crises in the world’s youngest nation.
The South Sudan leader’s visit comes as the SPLM-in-Opposition forces led by Machar, recaptured Bentiu, the strategic oil-rich Unity state capital.
Rebels have further launched military attacks to control other key towns.
There are reports that the two rivals are now engaged in a heavy fighting in Renk County of the oil-rich Upper Nile state.
South Sudan has been shaken by fierce violence since mid-December last year when rival factions of the presidential guards clashed in Juba.
The conflict which quickly spread to other parts of the country and eventually took ethnic lines claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced over one million.
Continued fighting and food insecurity has also forced over one million people, including some 100,000 people to Ethiopia.
The two sides signed a shaky ceasefire agreement on 23 January following weeks of IGAD led negotiations in Addis Ababa.
However, the cessation of hostilities agreement did not stop fighting on the ground with both sides trading accusations of violating the terms of the agreement.
A fresh round of negotiations between the South Sudanese government and the SPLM/A-in opposition is due to resume on 22 of April in Addis Ababa without the participation of the seven former detainees (SPLM-seven) who were recently excluded from the talks mediated by IGAD.