South Sudan: IGAD Chiefs Meet With South Sudan's Riek Machar

South Sudan soldiers

A delegation of the The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) Council of Ministers on Tuesday met and held consultations with the leader of Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), Dr Riek Machar in Pretoria, South Africa where he has been under house arrest for nearly two years.

A statement from Igad indicated the three-hour meeting deliberated on progress of the South Sudan peace process and was meant to get his side of the story concerning the resumed talks under a programme known as the High-Level Revitalisation Forum.

Igad which has been midwifing the peace talks was forced back to the drawing board after it became obvious the peace agreement Machar signed with President Kiir in August 2015 had collided with realities in South Sudan.

For example, more warring groups had cropped up and the SPLM/IO itself had two factions.

Last week, one of the factions led by Taban Deng Gai announced it was reuniting with the ruling SPLM.

Foreign Cabinet Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba who represented Kenya at the meeting told Nation the officials were meeting with Machar over "pending issues on transitional governance and security arrangements."

Those arrangements include planned merger and professionalisation of the South Sudanese army currently accused of being run as a tribal militia and fighting various other rebel groups across the country.

The meeting came against the backdrop of pressure from mediation financiers US and the UK who have asked Igad to punish violators of the ceasefire deal signed in December.

The meeting with Machar is a first public encounter by Igad officials.

The bloc in April said they would accept Machar's release as long as he renounces violence, stays away from South Sudan and does not directly take part in talks.

His side, however, disagreed with these conditions, saying the peace talks required everyone on board.

Ahead of the Pretoria meeting however, Igad seemed to relax the position, saying they were speaking with all parties to build trust for negotiations.

The meeting included Ismail Wais - Igad Special Envoy for South Sudan; Hirut Zemene (Ethiopia), Ababu Namwamba (Kenya) and Abdulkadir Ahmed Kheyr Abdi (Somalia).

The meeting happened at Johnny Makhathini Diplomatic Guesthouse, Pretoria.

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