Talks between South Sudan president Salva Kiir and leader of the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLA-IO), Riek Machar enter their second day today after the former’s arrival in Juba on Monday.
The meeting comes as a deadline for the extended pre-transitional period of 12 November fast approaches.
The two parties are expected to form a Revitalized Government of National Unity.
The talks are focusing on speeding up the screening and reunification of forces in order to create a united national army ahead of Machar’s expected return in two months, where he’ll once again serve as deputy president.
South Sudan is slowly emerging from five years of civil war that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions. A fragile peace deal was signed last September, but so far, it’s been marked by delays and continued fighting in parts of the country.
Machar’s trip to Juba is seen by some South Sudan observers as an attempt to move the agreement forward.
“This is a sign of commitment to peace. Our meeting concentrated on security arrangements because it is one of the fundamental provisions of this agreement and we deliberated on how we can fast-track so that the necessary forces of 83,000 will be realized before 11th November. Yes, we do have challenges, and we pray we overcome those challenges,” SPLA-IO deputy spokesperson Henry Odwa said after Monday’s meeting.
The talks could continue well into Wednesday where outstanding issues will be discussed, such as the number of states that South Sudan will have.
However, the government’s made it clear that even if everything isn’t in place before November, it will move ahead with forming a new government.
“We have said clearly we will form the government in November, come what may,” cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomuro said.
Machar, who’s been staying in Khartoum, Sudan, was accompanied to Juba by Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, a member of Sudan’s sovereign council and leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, an alliance of rebel groups.
In addition to talks with Machar, President Kiir has offered to mediate between Sudan’s government and the rebel groups, saying that it’s in the best interest of his country.