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.


Kim Jong Un supervises another North Korean military drill

Updated 27 min 46 sec ago

Kim Jong Un supervises another North Korean military drill

  • North Korea has publicized two military drill in three days
  • Kim Jong un has urged combat pilots to prepare against enemies ‘armed to the teeth’ while attending a flight demonstration

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a parachuting drill of military sharpshooters and vowed to build an “invincible army,” displaying more defiance even as the United States and South Korea called off their own exercises to create space for nuclear diplomacy.
The report Monday by the Korean Central News Agency came hours after President Donald Trump in a tweet urged Kim to “act quickly, get the deal done” while hinting at another summit, writing, “See you soon!”
At an Asian defense ministers’ conference in Bangkok on Sunday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States has indefinitely postponed a joint military exercise with South Korea in an “act of goodwill” toward North Korea. Diplomats have been pushing to resume stalled nuclear talks ahead of Kim’s end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to salvage the diplomacy.
North Korea has publicized two military drill in three days. A report Saturday said Kim urged combat pilots to prepare against enemies “armed to the teeth” while attending a flight demonstration.
KCNA published photos that showed Kim posing with North Korean air force sharpshooters and soldiers who used white parachutes to land on a training field.
Kim while supervising the drill said it’s “necessary to wage a drill without notice under the simulated conditions of real war” for improving his military’s war readiness and build it into an “invincible army,” KNCA said. Kim did not make any specific comment toward Washington or Seoul in the report.
North Korea has been ramping up missile tests and other military demonstrations in recent months in an apparent pressure tactic over the talks.
Negotiations have faltered since a February summit between Kim and Trump in Vietnam, which broke down after the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Kim issued an end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal while saying that the North would seek a “new path” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure.
Working-level talks last month in Sweden broke down over what the North Koreans described as the Americans’ “old stance and attitude.”
North Korea last week said the United States has proposed a resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations in December. But North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil didn’t clearly say whether the North would accept the supposed U.S. offer and said the country has no interest in talks if they are aimed at buying time without discussing solutions.
He said the North isn’t willing to make a deal over “matters of secondary importance,” such as possible US offers to formally declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which was halted by a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, or establish a liaison office between the countries.