May 29, 2014(Nairobi, Kenya) — Nairobi’s plans to host the warring South Sudan leaders were cancelled Thursday to give way for the implementation of the peace deal recently signed in Addis Ababa.
The Nation has learnt that the planned meeting between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar on Kenyan soil was put off to allow them to meet in Ethiopia next week. Kenya also changed its decision to host them as it did not want to create the impression that it was creating a parallel negotiations team.
A source from the Foreign Affairs ministry said the leaders are expected to meet next week in Ethiopia where they signed the truce on May 9.
President Kenyatta held talks with the former South Sudan Vice-President on Wednesday night.
Dr Machar is said to have briefed the President on his meetings with Inter Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) chairperson and Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn. The rebel leader, who has been in Kenya from Tuesday, was engaged in meetings regarding the situation in the oil-rich nation.
State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu said Dr Machar was in the country on the invitation of the President.
“Kenya has previously hosted parties to the conflict and he is here in that context,” he told the Nation.
Mr Mabior Garang de Mabior, Dr Machar’s deputy spokesman said the visit to Kenya was part of a series of trips he would be making in the region in an effort to secure peace.
“However long it will take to look for peace, Dr Machar will be at it,” he told the Nation and added that his boss was scheduled to meet President Kenyatta for more discussions later in the evening.
It had been earlier claimed that Dr Machar planned to visit Khartoum next week.
On the official Twitter handle for the Government of South Sudan @RepSouthSudan, the report was received with suspicion.
A post last evening read: “It will be very unfortunate if Dr Riek Machar goes to Khartoum to lobby for war. Let us all work together for peace #SouthSudan.”
Moments later it was followed by another post that said: “We are working together with Khartoum to try to see the case of #Meriam Yehya resolved peacefully based on relations between us & #Sudan.”
When he met President Kenyatta, Dr Machar thanked him for the role he played in seeking peace in South Sudan, and especially for appointing a special envoy to help the parties find a solution.
President Kenyatta brokered the deal to release 11 political detainees whom South Sudanese authorities accused of being party to a failed coup last December.
The former prisoners allied to Dr Machar were later flown to Kenya.
President Kenyatta also reaffirmed his commitment to South Sudan’s peace and stability. Speaking when he bade farewell to outgoing South Sudan Ambassador Majok Guandong yesterday, he said the war was undermining citizens’ social-economic growth and welfare.
The Head of State stressed the need for South Sudan leaders to work together for the peace and stability of their country since the conflict also affected Kenyans.