, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 12 – Seven South Sudan detainees released to Kenya last month were due to fly to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday to join all-party talks aimed at resolving the political crisis in Africa’s youngest nation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta met the group at State House Nairobi before the leaders departed Kenya.
The President named Rongo MP and former Cabinet Minister Dalmas Otieno, a noted expert on South Sudan, as an envoy to help them during the process.
The seven political leaders, as well as Rebecca Garang, widow of the late revered South Sudanese leader John Garang, met President Kenyatta to thank him for Kenya’s generosity and interest in ensuring that peace and stability was restored to South Sudan.
“We cannot thank you enough for the role Kenya has played in ensuring that we can start on the path of peace and political settlement,” Rebecca Garang told President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi.
“It was important to put pressure as you did, that our brothers in South Sudan agree to a cessation of hostilities. Now they must work to ensure people in camps can be allowed to return home, and that the remaining political detainees are freed so they can play their rightful role in the search for a lasting settlement,” she added.
President Kenyatta – an influential figure within IGAD and chair of the East African Community – told the South Sudanese leaders that Kenya had vast interests in South Sudan, having been home to many of its northern neighbour’s leaders. Kenya also had billions of dollars in investment tied up in South Sudan.
“It is in our interest that peace and stability is restored in your country and we will do everything we can to help on that agenda,” President Kenyatta said.
“We have no desire, no wish, other than peace, stability and prosperity for South Sudan,” President Kenyatta said. “We will work with you. We will work to facilitate a return to normalcy.”
South Sudan exploded into violence in December. A special summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) meeting in Nairobi late December hammered out a formula for a return to peace, which then culminated into agreements for the cessation of hostilities and a deal on the release of detainees.
President Kenyatta is a leading player in ensuring that the South Sudan government and other stakeholders stay the course of peace. To discuss progress, he is in constant telephone contact with regional leaders, including IGAD Chair and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.