South Sudan rebel leader in Juba in bid to salvage peace deal

Riek Machar, left, greets South Sudan President Salva Kiir, right, on his arrival in Juba, South Sudan. (AP Photo)
Updated 09 September 2019

South Sudan rebel leader in Juba in bid to salvage peace deal

  • Machar landed in the capital in a Sudanese plane, preceded by two jets carrying a large delegation of around 60 people from Khartoum where he is living in exile
  • South Sudan descended into war in 2013, just two years after the country gained independence, when Kiir accused his former deputy of plotting a coup

JUBA: South Sudan’s exiled rebel leader Riek Machar arrived in Juba on Monday for the first time in a year and held rare talks with President Salva Kiir as the rivals try to salvage a stalled peace agreement.
Machar landed in the capital in a Sudanese plane, preceded by two jets carrying a large delegation of around 60 people and security officers from Khartoum where he is living in exile, an AFP reporter witnessed.
Machar’s visit is expected to last two days, and comes as November deadline looms to form a power-sharing government, a key plank in a 2018 peace agreement that has been delayed by disputes over its terms.
“Our meeting concentrated on security arrangements, because it is one of the fundamental provisions of this agreement,” Machar’s deputy, Henry Odwar, told reporters after Kiir and Machar met at State House.
“We do have challenges and we pray that we overcome those challenges.”
Images on social media showed Kiir shaking hands and sitting at a table with Machar, flanked by the South Sudanese flag.
Kiir had not been seen with Machar since the pair met in the Vatican in April, when Pope Francis stunned the world by kissing the feet of two men accused of responsibility for heinous war crimes.
South Sudan descended into war in 2013, just two years after the country gained independence, when Kiir accused his former deputy and fellow former rebel leader Machar of plotting a coup.
Multiple attempts at peace have failed but in September 2018 the warring parties signed an agreement to form a unity government, which would see Machar return to government as vice president.
The last time Machar was in Juba was October 2018, for celebrations to mark the signing of the pact.
The power-sharing arrangements under the peace deal were supposed to take effect in May. But the process was delayed by six months until November.
Crucial technical steps contained within the agreement, such as creating a unified army and agreeing on the internal boundaries of states, have failed to make progress.
Alan Boswell, a South Sudan expert with the International Crisis Group (ICG), said the only solution was Kiir and Machar coming to a political agreement on how to move forward with the deal.
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. The only way to find a path forward is for these two to meet. The path is wide open for them to form a unity government but they will need to strike new political deals to do that,” he told AFP Monday.
“If they fail to agree on a way forward with direct talks then we are looking at a major crisis.”
Following their extraordinary meeting in the Vatican, Kiir told parliament he had forgiven Machar, and urged his rival to return home.
But Machar has been concerned about his personal security should he return to the capital.
He fled on foot under a hail of gunfire when a previous peace deal collapsed in July 2016.
He is currently living in Khartoum, the capital of neighboring Sudan, the country from which South Sudan broke away to claim independence in 2011.
He was accompanied to Juba by Sudanese paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who is best known by his nickname “Hemeti,” and who is holding separate peace talks with Sudanese armed groups.
Sudan has been engaged in its own bloody transition toward peace since the overthrow of Omar Al-Bashir in April.
Kiir urged the Sudanese groups to negotiate “in good faith” to bring peace to the region.
“I believe that we are one, and facing the same problem. If there is no peace in Sudan, there will be no peace in South Sudan,” Kiir said.
The fighting in South Sudan has left about 380,000 people dead and forced more than four million South Sudanese — almost a third of the population — to flee their homes.


India begins examination of plane’s black box after deadly crash

Updated 09 August 2020

India begins examination of plane’s black box after deadly crash

  • Air India Express plane overshot runway of the Calicut International Airport in heavy rain
  • Company to pay compensation to the families of the deceased

NEW DELHI: Indian investigators on Sunday began examining the black box of a Boeing-737 that overshot a runway on its second attempt, killing 18 people in the country’s worst aviation accident in a decade.
The Air India Express plane, which was repatriating Indians stranded in Dubai due to the coronavirus pandemic, overshot the runway of the Calicut International Airport in heavy rain near the southern city of Kozhikode on Friday.
The aircraft fell into a valley and broke in half.
In an interview with Reuters partner ANI on Sunday, Anil Kumar, head of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, said the country would open the recovered transcripts to international investigators, as well as manufacturer Boeing.
“Only after conducting a thorough and unbiased probe, can we tell what exactly happened,” Kumar said.
The 2,700-meter runway at the airport is known as a “table-top,” an aviation term for runways with steep drops at one or both ends.
They leave little room for error should a pilot overshoot the runway, either through human error or mechanical failure.
Late on Saturday, Kumar told CNN-News18 in an interview that the pilot made an aborted landing attempt into a headwind and then made a second approach with a tail wind, landing 1,000 meters down the runway.
An air traffic control official familiar with the crash confirmed this version of events, adding it is unusual to attempt a landing at the airport with a tailwind, which is typically used for takeoffs.
“The length of the runway in Calicut is around 2,700 meters and the plane touched the ground after crossing 1,000 meters of the length, leaving less room to bring the aircraft to a halt,” the official, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said.
“It was windy and rainy and the runway surface was wet. In such instances the weather is dynamic.”
“An aircraft typically lands and departs in a headwind as a tailwind increases the plane’s speed.”
A spokesman for Air India did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has already said it will pay compensation to the families of the deceased.