Kiir opens Nairobi peace talks with a hope of ending conflict

Peace talks between the South Sudan government and the holdout groups were launched in Kenya on Thursday, with African presidents calling for an end to the conflict.

Peace talks between the South Sudan government and the holdout groups were launched in Kenya on Thursday, with African presidents calling for an end to a conflict that has crippled the country’s economy for several years.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit thanked his Kenyan counterpart, William Ruto, for hosting the peace talks in Nairobi and said that his government would negotiate in good faith and with an open mind.

 “We hope that the opposition groups have a similar conviction and desire for peace in South Sudan, which, when fully achieved, will bring everlasting stability and economic development in the region, not just South Sudan,” Kiir said.

The mediation is being led by former Kenya army commander Lazurus Sumbeiywo, who also mediated the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 which gave Southern Sudan autonomy and later led to a referendum for independence in 2011.

Two prominent members of the holdout opposition group, who did not join the 2018 peace agreement, have accepted the Kenyan-led mediation after some months of suspicion.

Delegates of the SSUF/A, led by former army chief Gen. Paul Malong, Real-SPLM, led by former SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum, and SSPM led by Gen. Stephen Buay Rolnyang have announced their readiness to participate in the Nairobi peace talks.

Kenyan President William Ruto has called for a strong commitment from all parties in the South Sudan peace process to achieve lasting and sustainable peace.

President Ruto said the mediation process is keen on ending conflict and political instability in South Sudan. He further said the high-level mediation for South Sudan has brought together eight categories of parties and groups, ensuring the process is inclusive and home-grown.

“This initiative exemplifies the Pan-African policy of African solutions to African challenges, contributing to the ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa initiative’ and fostering an environment for transformational development in South Sudan, our region, and the entire African continent,” he said.

Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera, Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema, Namibia’s Nangolo Mbumba, and Central African Republic’s Faustin-Archange Touadera also attended the launch that took place after an African Union agricultural summit earlier in the day.

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer welcomed the talks. “The United States applauds Kenya’s commitment to regional stability and support for peace in South Sudan,” the US Embassy in Kenya wrote on X, after the launch.

The chief mediator in the South Sudan peace process, Lazarus Sumbeiywo, exuded confidence that the talks would resolve the outstanding issues. “After this launch, we plan to engage in sustained and continuous mediation to ensure a speedy and comprehensive resolution of the issues, so long as the parties go along with the plan,” he said.

South Sudan remains fragile despite the 2018 peace agreement, which is yet to be fully implemented. The country is expected to hold elections in December but key issues including a unified security force are yet to be resolved. The opposition has been calling for a speedy implementation of the peace agreement to pave the way for free and fair elections.