Kiir, Machar review progress on security sector
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and exiled opposition leader Riek Machar met and reviewed progress on security arrangements, officials said.
The meeting between the two rival leaders is seen as a key step towards the implementation of the September 2018 peace deal, which has been delayed by disputes.
South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Elia Lomuro told reporters in Juba that today’s meeting, which took place at the presidential palace, was aimed at assessing progress on the implementation of security arrangements.
“We reviewed progress on cantonment sites, we reviewed progress on supplies to cantonment sites and the process of screening,” Lomuro explained.
“We have made miles of positive things that are meeting towards the creation of unified forces before November,” he added.
Lomuro denied the claims that the government was dragging its feet on implementing security reforms, saying a lot of progresses have been achieved since the inking of the peace deal.
The minister pointed out that the two leaders will discuss the number of states on Tuesday morning, saying Machar will remain in Juba for two days.
He said the parties to the peace deal are working in order to achieve the training of the necessary unified forces before the formation of a transitional government in November. “What we want to do is to have a force that is ready for the government to be formed by 12 November,” he said.
The official further said they had agreed to form a 3,000-strong VIP protection unit that would be tasked to handle the security of top government officials during the transitional government.
Minister Lomuro pointed out that the government will try to provide funds to expedite the implementation of the critical pending tasks in the peace deal.
Tut Gatluak, a security adviser to President Salva Kiir, said the talks between Kiir and Machar were fruitful. “The two leaders reviewed the peace agreement… I want to assure you that this year will be a year of peace in South Sudan,” he said.
“The meeting reviewed progress on the security sector and the presentation by the joint security team was very good,” he added.
For his part, the deputy chairman of Mr. Machar’s group, Henry Odwar said today’s meeting focused on security arrangements, a key part of the deal signed by the rival parties last year. “We deliberated on how we can fast-track so that the necessary forces of 83,000 will be realized before 11 November,” he said.
Machar's visit to Juba this morning was facilitated by Sudan government.
The meeting between Kiir and Machar comes as a 12 November deadline approaches to form a transitional government. Steps toward key benchmarks in the peace deal – unifying armed forces and drawing boundaries of states – are lagging far behind schedule.