, NAIROBI, Kenya, June 21 – President Uhuru Kenyatta is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend a summit by leaders from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the South Sudan peace process.
IGAD leaders are set to review the progress made in restoring peace in South Sudan since a conflict broke out in 2013 following an attempted coup.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his archrival, former Vice President Riek Machar arrived in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, signaling heightened efforts to reach a truce between the two.
Machar had been placed under house arrest in South Africa for about a year and a half where he was restricted from meeting his close allies due to fears of an escalation of tensions in South Sudan.
On arrival in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, Machar and his former boss were hosted to a dinner by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a rear meeting that marked the first time the two leaders saw eye to eye in two years.
“H.E. PM Abiy Ahmed hosted a private dinner to President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar together,” Ahmed’s Chief of Staff Fitsun Arega announced in a tweet on Wednesday with accompanying images of the three leaders.
“Faced with the continued suffering in South Sudan, Ethiopia simply can’t stand by. With more work, a peaceful future is possible in South Sudan,” Arega expounded.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma arrived in Addis Ababa early on Wednesday and thereafter held a meeting with colleague ministers to lay the ground for the Heads of State and Governments summit.
IGAD which comprises of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan is understood to be pushing for a truce between the Kiir and Machar to create an enabling environment for a presidential election due on July 9.
Kenya and Ethiopia have taken a prominent role in peace negotiations to restore stability in South Sudan.
As at April 2018, the UN Refugee Agency statistics placed the number of South Sudanese refugees at 296,748 with a projected 1.8 million persons said to have been internally displaced at the time.
The main issue of contention in the ongoing peace talks is whether or not a transitional government should be constituted before presidential elections are held.
The election was initially set to be held on July 9, 2015 but political turmoil compelled the country’s parliament to vote in April 2015 amending a transitional constitution enacted in 2011 to extend the presidential and parliamentary terms.
The IGAD leaders will be meeting at a time when the United States has piled pressure on the region asking respective governments to crack down on South Sudanese elite investing ill-acquired wealth in the region.
“I want to be very clear, those who profit from human rights violations and corruption, preying on the poor and innocent and mothers and children, must heed our warning,” Sigal Mandelker, the US Treasury’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence told a press conference in Nairobi on Wednesday last week.
“We will impose consequences, we will cut off your access to the US financial system and we will work with our partners in this region and elsewhere to do the same,” Mandelker, who had issued a similar message in Uganda, stated.