Machar lands in Juba for talks with Kiir

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The plane carrying Machar and his team [Photo by Eye Radio]

The plane carrying South Sudan opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar’s advance team has just landed at Juba International Airport, reports journalist Denis Dumo.

The exiled opposition leader will Monday meet with President Salva Kiir.

The two rival leaders have not been seen together since they met in the Vatican in April.

 “Machar will travel to Juba on Monday morning to hold a face-to-face meeting with President Salva Kiir,” Pouk Both Baluang, the SPLM-IO’s director for information told Radio Tamazuj from Khartoum on Sunday.

Pouk said Machar, who should regain his post as first vice president under the terms of the peace deal, will be accompanied by Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council.

The opposition official further said Kiir and Machar will discuss all the outstanding issues of the peace accord and the way forward.

He pointed out that it was not clear how long Machar will remain in Juba following his meeting with President Salva Kiir.

Machar and his team are expected to meet Kiir today

The SPLM-IO official said the planned meeting is part of an effort by the regional grouping IGAD in building confidence in the peace deal, which is behind schedule.

The country’s largest opposition group blamed lack of political will for slow implementation of the peace agreement.“We urge the government to show political will and implement the peace agreement because our people need peace,” Pouk said.

The opposition group expressed optimism ahead of the meeting with South Sudanese leader Salva Kiir, even as some observers have cast uncertainty on how productive the meeting will be.

The plane carrying Machar’s team

Pouk raised the possibility Kiir and Machar could come to an agreement on the way forward.

The meeting comes as a 12 November deadline approaches to establish a transitional government. Steps toward key benchmarks in the peace deal – unifying armed forces and drawing boundaries of states – are lagging far behind schedule.

The regional body that negotiated the South Sudan peace deal noted that lack of meetings between Kiir and Machar has been cited as one of the challenges impeding the implementation of the September 2018 peace deal.

A similar peace deal, that returned Machar to the post of first vice president, was signed in 2015 but fell apart a year later in deadly clashes in the capital Juba that saw Machar flee into exile.

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