MEETING of the titanic, face to face
By Opio Jackson
The meeting between President Salva Kiir and his arch rival Dr. Riek Machar went into late early night after diplomatic consultations between the two parties before heading for the scheduled venue for the face to face interaction. It was to be the first time in two years for the two to meet one on one after the breakout of the July 2016 conflict. By the time of going to press, a series of diplomatic consultations between the Ethiopian authorities and the Kiir-Machar team was going on.
All were silent from the major key players in the South Sudan peace process.
Earlier, President Salva Kiir left for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa yesterday to hold face-to-face talks with the rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar to negotiate the possibility of ending the five-year civil war which has ravaged the country.
Dr. Machar was to hold a meeting with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, before his talks with Kiir.
The rebel leader had been under house arrest in South Africa since late 2016 after fleeing from the neighboring Sudan.
This will be the first face-to-face meeting between Kiir and Dr. Machar in three years since the peace agreement collapsed in August 2016.
South Sudan again spiral into conflict in July 2016 in which President Kiir accused Machar, the then vice president for organizing a palace conspiracy to assassinate him and seize power.
Since then tens of thousands of people, mostly non-combatants, died, two million fled to other territories as refugees and the epidemics of curable ailments, propitiated by a merciless drought, dominated the surrounding reality.
The meeting was recommended by the IGAD Council of Ministers during the 62nd extraordinary secession Council of Minister which suggested that the two Stakeholders to the conflict meet before the 31st summit of the African Union due to be held next month.
Following the IGAD proposal for the face to face meeting, the Kenyan Opposition leader Raila Odinga met both Kiir and Machar.
President Kiir and Dr. Machar accepted the proposal.
Earlier Khartoum had also expressed interest to host the talks. Sudanese President Omar Hassan El Bashir sent a ministerial delegation led by the foreign affairs Minister to deliver a letter asking President to accept that face to face meeting in Khartoum.
Kenya was another country that had expressed interest to host the talks.
But Government Spokesperson Michael Makuei said the best thing was to hold it in a neutral ground so that none of these three countries take it for anything other than a neutral place.