South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar are meeting in Juba this week to discuss security matters and other issues ahead of a November 12th deadline for forming a unity government.
Kiir and Machar met at the State House for a few hours on Monday evening and are expected to meet again Wednesday.
Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said Kiir and Machar put off meeting Tuesday because the president is involved with other events. He was reported to be accrediting foreign ambassadors.
Officials said Monday’s talks concentrated on ramping up the process for screening and reunifying forces to create a united national army before Machar returns in November to serve for a second time as South Sudan’s First Vice President.
This was Machar’s first visit to Juba since last October.
He arrived with a delegation of more than 60 people, many of whom chanted the SPLM-IO slogan “viva”, meaning “victory” or “long live” in Spanish upon their arrival at Juba International Airport.
Ateny said Kiir and Machar will also take up the divisive issue of determining the number of South Sudanese states and their boundaries.
He indicated that yesterday’s meeting went well.
“Yesterday the positive meeting that took place has given hope that the formation of the government in November is a working thing, people can talk about it,” said Ateny.
Kiir and Machar led opposing sides in a five-year civil war that ended with a peace agreement last year.
A source involved in the talks told VOA that Kiir and Machar discussed the creation of 40 cantonment areas, the screening of the entire VIP protection force, and the unification of 83,000 government and rebel forces by November.
Presidential security advisor Tutkew Gatluak said Machar’s visit to Juba bodes well for full implementation of the peace agreement.
“Let me tell you that the meeting of President Kiir and Doctor Riek Machar will solve the problems of this country,” Gatluak told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
Delegation from Sudan
Machar flew from Khartoum on the same plane as the Sudanese delegation headed by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of Sudan’s transitional military council and a member of the Sovereign Council, Sudan’s joint military-civilian executive body.
President Kiir has been helping to mediate the Sudanese political crisis. South Sudanese mediator Dhieu Mathok said the mediation team distributed a position paper on the talks’ agenda and procedures.
“People talk of opening the humanitarian corridors, people talk of release of prisoners of war, people talk of release of frozen assets of the oppositions, and people talk of how they should now sign a cessation of hostilities,” Mathok told South Sudan in Focus.
He said the new Sudanese government was amenable to speaking with Sudanese rebel groups separately because the rebels were unable to align their positions under one umbrella organization.
“The government of Sudan will negotiate with the Sudanese Revolutionary Front as a separate track and negotiate with the SPLM-N, (North). Talks with Abdulazeez Adam Al Hilu is also going to be a separate track,” Mathok told VOA.