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Boost as parties in South Sudan peace process commit to end war

 South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, (centre), and opposition leader Riek Machar (right), shake hands during peace talks at a hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2018. [Reuters]

The peace initiative to end the long-standing conflict in South Sudan has received a boost after the mediation team signed a commitment deal. 

The stakeholders bringing together  representatives from the South Sudan government and the opposition have agreed to resolve the differences that resulted in war, killing thousands and disrupting livelihoods. 

The chief mediator General (Rtd) Lazarus Sumbeiywo directed the immediate commencement of the negotiations even as he urged the two parties to embrace the spirit of reconciliation. 

"We are now asking each of the parties to select two members to meet starting this afternoon (Thursday) to flash out points of differences by tomorrow midday," he said. 

"You will look through what the parties presented and the four members of the secretariat to form the rapporteurs. From then we will start meditating on the agenda," he added. 

This comes a week after President William Ruto launched the high-level mediation talks, reiterating the need for inclusive and home-grown solutions to African issues.

“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,” President Ruto said on Thursday last week. 

Dubbed "Tumaini Peace Initiative," the process is seen as a milestone in ending the decade-long conflict in South Sudan. 

According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an organisation providing humanitarian aid in the war-torn nation, an estimated four hundred thousand people have died while thousands left homeless with neighbouring countries like Kenya having an influx of refugees fleeing the violence. 

Despite several efforts by regional bodies including the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), Sumbeiywo acknowledged that "only minimal progress towards peace has been realised and conflict still persists " in South Sudan. 

"It is time to put to an end to the violence that has ripped communities apart and caused tremendous suffering," he said, challenging the warring groups to "negotiate in good faith and in a sustained and continuous manner." 

He exuded confidence in the peace process, saying it is inclusive with representatives from opposition groups, youth organisations, women's associations and civil society organisations who pledged their support and commitment for the mediation process. 

Director Peace and Security in the State Department of Foreign Affairs Leah Nyamu said the discussion will delve into "sound-based landmark agenda items including justice, governance and security." 

This happens in the backdrop of commemoration of the the day the second civil war began in South Sudan on May 16, 1983. 

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