Wednesday, 29 January 2014


An end to the ethnic conflict in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, was in sight Wednesday following a decision by President Salva Kiir to release seven of the 11 political detainees.This was part of the conditions set by the Igad summit in Nairobi last month, which agreed that one principle of engagement with South Sudan would be the release of 11 political detainees by President Kiir. After their release on Wednesday morning, the seven flew to Nairobi to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta. They were accompanied by veteran South Sudan peace mediator General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, who was appointed by Igad to mediate the ongoing conflict. And speaking at State House in Nairobi when he received the seven freed detainees, President Kenyatta commended Kiir for his compliance with the agreement.

 “Some detainees still remain in custody. Igad will continue conversations about them with our brother Kiir,” Uhuru said. He said the Igad would discuss how best to establish the urgently needed monitoring and verification mechanism provided for in the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on January 23. Those who were released are Deng Alor Kuol, Geir Chuang, Dr Chris Hiteng, Kosti Manibe, General Madut Biar Yel, Chol Tong Mayay and John Luk. The names of the four still in detention were not revealed. Luk, who spoke on behalf of the released political detainees, said they harboured no bitterness, affirming that they recognise President Kiir. The seven, who were detained on December 16, last year, were set free on Wednesday morning after what they said was “an intervention by President Uhuru”.Detained politicians had allied with Riek Machar, the former vice president, in opposing what they describe as Kiir’s increasing “dictatorial” rule. The conflict, began with a clash within the Presidential Guards of the South Sudanese army (SPLA) but spread fast to other parts of the country after senior military officers defected and led mutinies against the government in Jonglei and Unity state.

As one of those who pushed for a quick resolution of the conflict back in December when it broke out –through the Intergovernmental Authority for Development—Kenyatta has been keeping an eye on South Sudan, more so after he sent a special envoy Lazarus Sumbeiywo to help bring Machar and Kiir to the table. “These agreements are an important milestone in the quest to end the current conflict and return South Sudan to normalcy, so that the citizens of Africa’s youngest nation can put the history of suffering behind them,” said Kenyatta. He remained optimistic that Kiir and Machar will sit and draw out a map to make sure that they don’t let their political differences to end in devastating bloodshed witnessed in the past month. “Every South Sudanese, and every one of the neighbors of South Sudan, looks to these agreements as the start of initiatives that will bring the crisis to an end so that the promise of a new democratic nation is not betrayed,” Kenya’s Head of State said. Kenyatta wants Kiir and Machar to make sure that every voice –including that of the detainees, religious organizations, civil society--- is represented in the talks. 

According to Mr Esipisu, Kenyatta “urged South Sudanese leaders to hold themselves accountable for delivering what their people so desperately desire: a nation able to resolve its political differences peacefully; and one that allows its people a chance to lead decent, safe lives.” He noted the contribution of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Sumbeiywo and the other IGAD special envoys who managed to get Machar and Kiir and their respective teams to sit down and work together. Kenyatta also asked the Sudanese leaders to make sure that all roads leading to the camps or to areas where humanitarian assistance is required are opened to allow the relief workers to do their job.

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